Tragic day for Corrections Canada employee began with talk of promotion

On the day she went missing, Natasha Cournoyer was talking to her bosses about a promotion.

Correctional Services of Canada employees are briefed by a police officer as they come to lend a hand in the search for their colleague Natasha Cournoyer who disappeared Thursday evening after work

LAVAL, Que. — On the day she went missing, Natasha Cournoyer was talking to her bosses about a promotion.

One week later, the place where she worked — the Correctional Service of Canada — was holding a press conference while an autopsy was being performed on Cournoyer’s body.

The 37-year-old communications official at the correctional service was found dead, the victim of a homicide, this week in a wooded area of Montreal.

One of her supervisors at the Corrections Canada paid tribute to Cournoyer at a news conference Thursday.

Johanne Vallee said the correctional service is a tough place to leave your mark — but that Cournoyer managed to do so very quickly. She had only begun filling in for another employee on maternity leave in May.

“She was excellent,” said Vallee, deputy commissioner and the highest-ranking corrections official in Quebec.

“She was really professional, quite a dynamic person. . . For us, it’s a big loss.”

Last Thursday, on the day she went missing, Cournoyer was discussing long-term career possibilities with her supervisors.

She went missing as she left work that day, during her routine 300-metre walk across a parking lot from her office building to her car.

Her car never made it out of the parking lot.

Cournoyer was seen on a surveillance camera leaving the building. There are no cameras covering the parking lot where her car was, but police have been scanning footage of the cars that left the lot exit.

Vallee said the late employee did communications work, noting that her own speeches were written by Cournoyer and that she also edited a departmental newsletter.

However, Vallee moved to dismiss any suggestion her job might have had anything to do with the killing. She said Cournoyer rarely came into contact with prisoners.

She said Cournoyer occasionally visited prisons for “protocol” issues — and that’s it. Vallee noted that Cournoyer, like any other visitor, was always escorted at the facilities.

“She did not participate in activities involving inmates,” Vallee said.

“She visited some institutions . . . but she was in charge of activities involving correctional staff and she was not in contact with inmates.”

Police say they’ve been working their way backward from the site in Montreal where her body was found, back to the spot across the river in Laval where she was last seen on a surveillance video outside her office.

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