A life lost to drugs and alcohol

photo courtesy of Selina McIntyre
Delilah Blair, who grew up in Hay River, was found deceased on May 21 in a detention cell in Windsor, Ont.

A woman who grew up in Hay River has been identified by her family as the person who died in an Ontario detention cell on May 21.

Thirty-year-old Delilah Blair was identified by her mother, Selina McIntyre, who lives in Hay River.

McIntyre said she received a call from a coroner in Ontario, who explained Blair had apparently died by her own hand.

“He told me she had taken sheets and made a rope and hung herself,” her mother said, noting she was told her daughter hung herself from a bookcase.

It was a tragic end to a life marred by drug addiction.

McIntyre said she would not have been surprised by a call that her daughter had died, but never expected it would be from suicide.

However, she got a call from the South West Detention Centre in Windsor, Ont., asking if she was Delilah Blair’s mother.

“And then she said, ‘Are you sitting down?'” McIntyre recalled. “And right there I knew that was it.”

As of late last week, the Windsor Police Service had not officially identified the woman found deceased at the detention centre.

The police service’s only statement on the incident announced a fatality.

A police news release noted officers were called to the detention centre shortly after 9 p.m. on May 21 regarding a female inmate.

“Initial investigation revealed that the inmate has been found unresponsive in her cell,” the statement reads. “Emergency assistance was provided, and the female was transported to hospital. The female was later pronounced deceased.”

The Office of the Chief Coroner of Ontario, the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services, and the Windsor Police Service’s Major Crimes Branch are all investigating the incident.

“Windsor Police Service will investigate to determine if there was any criminal element to the death,” the statement added.

McIntyre said her daughter was a good and lovable kid, until there was a sudden change caused by alcohol and drugs.

“At 12 years old, she didn’t come home one day,” her mother recalled.

That was the first of numerous times when Delilah Blair would disappear throughout her teenage years until she was 19 and left home permanently.

“Thirty-three times I left Hay River to go get her,” recalled McIntyre, explaining her daughter would disappear and end up in Yellowknife, Fort Resolution or Fort Smith, and even Edmonton and Manitoba.

“This was a wild girl,” said her mother, who believes her daughter started using crack cocaine at the age of 12.

McIntyre said she battled all the way to save her daughter from drugs and alcohol, even placing her in various treatment facilities.

“I put her everywhere I could put her,” she said. “As soon as she got out, she would run, go wild.”

As an adult, Blair continued to live the life of a drug addict, travelling with friends and living in numerous locations, and never settling down.

She had four children – three of whom aged from six to 12 now live with McIntyre and a seven-year-old adopted by a family in Alberta.

McIntyre noted that, in recent months, her daughter was living with a boyfriend in Windsor, but would still disappear for days or a week at a time.

“She’s had a crime life ever since this life with the drugs,” said McIntyre. “It just got worse and worse, the crime.”

She was told her daughter was at the detention centre in Windsor after allegedly trying to commit armed robbery with an imitation weapon in early March.

However, she noted the charge was stayed and she is not sure why Blair was still in the facility.

“I don’t know,” said McIntyre. “That’s what they’re not giving me answers to.”

When interviewed by The Hub on May 26, McIntyre was planning to leave for Windsor the next day, and expressed thanks to the community for financial support for that travel.

There, she and her son, who lives in Ontario, were to hold a service for her daughter prior to cremation.

While in Windsor, McIntyre, who was once a corrections officer, plans to talk to the police and the coroner to get more information about her daughter’s death.

She will even ask to see the cell where her daughter died.

McIntyre explained she has decided to speak publicly about her daughter’s death and her struggles with drugs and alcohol because the problem needs to be talked about.

“I feel a lot of people find shame in having a family member who’s an addict,” she said. “They jump to conclusions. Something had to be wrong, something had to go wrong. Well, it doesn’t. Drugs don’t discriminate. They don’t care whether you’re rich, white, black or whatever. It could happen to anybody.”

Plus, she noted others in Hay River are struggling with family members addicted to drugs, and she has heard from some of them since her daughter died.

“It’s such a dirty little secret having an addict in the house that you don’t want anybody in the community to know,” McIntyre said. “Delilah is not the first to die. She’s not going to be the last to die.”

Blair was born in Fort St. John, B.C., and came to Fort Smith with her family when she was four years old.

She was last in Hay River about nine years ago.