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Alberta family learns of son's death in Victoria through Google search

After failing to reach his son Scott to wish him a happy birthday, Glen Grier started searching online for his name along with Victoria, B.C. The second hit was Scott's obituary.

Glen Grier says it would have been hard enough to learn of his son’s death 10 months ago from Victoria police or the B.C. Coroners Service.

Instead, last week, the father from Stony Plain, Alta. learned from a Google search that his 35-year-old son Scott had died, been cremated and buried in a Victoria cemetery without his knowledge.

“I’m not sure how to explain it. It’s been a wild one, a difficult one,” Grier said Friday. “Never mind researching it to make sure what you saw on Google is true. It makes it so much more difficult when you spend a whole day confirming it, making call after call.”

On Jan. 18, Grier and his wife, Michelle Grier, tried to reach Scott to wish him a happy birthday. Scott had struggled with addiction for four or five years. The last time they saw him was in the fall of 2019, when his father put him on a bus from Calgary to a healing centre in Sicamous. But Scott got twitchy by the third week, left the centre and made his way to Victoria.

“He was always in touch. It might be a month or two go by, it might be twice a month, but he always found a way to say: ‘Hi. I’m OK’ kind of thing,” said Grier.

In September 2020, when Grier hadn’t heard from Scott in a while, he filed a missing person report with Victoria police. Scott was located safely.

They talked to him in May 2022 and assumed he was OK, said Grier.

“Then it just went too long and his birthday rolled around. I’d tried to find other ways, looking for missing persons reports. I’d look for unidentified bodies that were found. Then I thought: ‘Can I bother the police with another missing person thing?”

Grier just wasn’t feeling right and started his usual searches. At 9 p.m., he decided to Google “Scott Grier, Victoria, B.C.”

The first thing that came up was the missing person report from 2020. The second was an obituary with Scott’s name, date of birth and date of death — May 16, 2022.

“Our hearts just sank,” said Glen Grier.

“We thought someone was pulling our leg or it was a hoax,” said Michelle Grier.

They called Victoria police, the Ministry for Social Development and Poverty Reduction and the coroner, but couldn’t reach anyone at that time of night.

“We were restless. It was hard to sleep, hard to think,” said Michelle.

“There was a lot of denial until we knew it was really true,” said Glen.

The next day, the coroner said they had Scott’s fingerprints and confirmed he had died from a fentanyl overdose. He collapsed on the street and couldn’t be revived.

“Another one of those sad stories,” said Glen.

He and Michelle are still waiting to find out why they weren’t notified. Glen’s name and phone numbers were on the missing person’s report and he’d received a phone call when Scott was found.

“Glen’s been on every single file in his life. Whenever there was trouble or he ended up in hospital, Scott would give the doctors Glen’s name and number and say: ‘You can tell my Dad anything,’ ” Michelle said. “We’ve had the same phone number for 30 years. It’s all very frustrating.”

The Griers had to find out where Scott is buried. They are now trying to retrieve his ashes.

“The ministry did say if we want to unearth him, everything is possible,” said Michelle.

Retrieving the ashes will cost $1,100.

“I asked the lady from the ministry straight out — ‘You knew his name, you cremated him, buried him, why weren’t we notified?’ She did not comment on it,” said Grier.

While they wait for answers, the Griers are also dealing with the grief of Scott’s seven-year-old daughter, Octavia, who lives with them.

“Yesterday was a beautiful day and the snow was soft, like snowman’s snow, and she wrote ‘I miss Dad’ and drew some big hearts in the snow. It was so sweet,” said Glen.

They hope this doesn’t happen to anyone again. People have been reaching out to them. One Victoria woman asked if she could put flowers on Scott’s grave, then sent them a picture.

“I didn’t realize how emotional I’d be when I saw the marker — my tears welled up immediately. I was overwhelmed by the kindness of this stranger and the sight of where he was laid to rest — for now,” said Michelle.

Victoria police have begun a file review to determine if officers could have taken additional steps, said Const. Terri Healy.

“This is a tragic event and our hearts go out to Scott’s family. No parent should have to find out about their child’s death this way … We have reached out to the Grier family to offer our condolences in their time of grief and assure them that we are actively working with our partners to ensure that this will not happen to another family.”

A spokesman for the Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction said they received a referral from the Public Guardian and Trustee to manage funeral arrangements for Scott Grier. The Public Guardian and Trustee sends referrals when they determine a deceased person has no estate to manage. The referral did not identify any next of kin.

“When next of kin are identified, the ministry will follow up to review the final arrangements being made. However, next of kin were not known at the time in Scott’s case,” the spokesman said.

In B.C., the Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction pays the necessary funeral costs of any person who dies in the province if the deceased person’s estate has no immediate resources to meet these costs.

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