Fight for access to settlement

Lawyers representing a former Penticton couple are in Vancouver Supreme Court today, arguing for access to a trust set up after a settlement the husband received following a brain injury he received at the hands of the RCMP in Northern B.C.

Robert Wright suffered a severe brain injury in 2012 after having his head smashed into the bench of a Terrace, B.C. jail cell, while he was handcuffed, by Const. Brian Heideman. Wright had been detained on suspicion of drunk driving. RCMP and Wright reached a multi-million dollar settlement, with his new wife, Heather Prisk assigned as trustee and caregiver.

Const. Heideman, now stationed in Vernon, has faced other allegations of excessive force while interacting with First Nations men.

Prisk and Wright moved to Penticton after receiving the settlement and lived in the Delta Mobile Home Park prior to being evicted due to redevelopment plans.

The relationship between Prisk and the administrators of the trust, Deloitte and now Royal Trust, fractured over a disagreement on whether the trust would pay for a caregiver beyond the 40 hours a week Prisk was already providing herself. The trust also refused to pay for expenses like vet bills for the couple's dogs.

Since Prisk resigned as trustee in 2017, she has not been getting any remuneration for the care she provides her husband. Despite the seven-figure settlement, the pair are now living in a trailer on First Nation’s land in New Brunswick on just $2,000 a month.

“Either pay me for the care that I provide, or pay somebody else for the care that he needs,” Prisk told Castanet, adding she wants to be able to go get a job if she’s not getting paid for her time caring for her husband.

Prisk holds a degree in social work, which has helped her care for Wright.

“If I didn’t have my education and the background that I have, I probably couldn’t do this, but because I can do it doesn't mean I should be taken advantage of.”

“I’m held hostage,” she added. “The number one priority should be Rob having a roof over his head with enough income to support himself and live in the community and the care that he needs to remain in his home.”

Lawyers representing Wright, Prisk and Royal Trust have a hearing in Vancouver Friday — coincidentally on International Day Against Police Brutality — seeking the administrators of the trust accept Wright’s wishes that his wife cares for him and is paid for her time.

“I want to continue to live with Heather and our dogs,” he stated in a sworn affidavit. “I do not want to live in a care facility under any circumstances. The idea of a care facility makes me think of prison.”

“Heather helps me every day. She organizes my days, drives me to my appointments...helps me with everyday tasks like dressing and grooming...provides me with companionship, and calms me down when I get worried or stressed. I trust Heather to make decisions for me and care for me.”

“I want to be able to use monies from the trust to pay for the full-time care and support Heather gives me,” the affidavit concludes.

In a statement, Wright’s lawyers said they are asking the courts to give him some degree of control over how his settlement is spent, taking into account his own wishes and views, “because the best interests of Mr. Wright depend on Mr. Wright himself and his specific circumstances and experiences.”

“We had a future, we had plans and had only been married eight and a half months,” when the jail beating occurred, Prisk said. “I should be able to get up and go to work in the morning."

The hearing in Vancouver Friday is expected to last at least one full day.

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