EDMONTON — An injured workers group is setting up a legal defence fund for the man alleged to have taken nine people hostage at the Workers’ Compensation Board office in Edmonton.
“We don’t agree with using violence, but we can understand how he was driven to that point,” said Darlene Zloklikovits, vice-president of the Alberta Injured Workers Society.
A few members of the group attended Patrick Charles Clayton’s court appearance on Friday.
When asked if he could afford to hire a lawyer, Clayton sobbed, saying, “I can’t afford nothing.”
Zloklikovits said WCB clients are often left destitute when benefits are denied or dry up.
She and her husband had to claim bankruptcy after he was injured in 1995, she said.
“When you have a person who is hurt at work and they are denied benefits they deserve, they lose their families in a lot of cases, they lose their homes,” said Zloklikovits.
The group is not planning any formal fundraising activities.
Normally, members take calls from desperate injured workers and help steer them to advocates and point them toward the right paperwork.
Clayton, 38, is charged with unlawful confinement, pointing a firearm, possession of a weapon dangerous to the public, careless use of a firearm and the use of a firearm during the commission of an offence.
Last Wednesday, a man managed to slip through security at the downtown WCB office with a high-powered rifle and plenty of ammunition.
After firing one shot into a wall, the man locked himself and the hostages in an office, forcing the evacuation of more than 700 people in the city’s downtown core.
He surrendered to officers following a 10-hour stand-off during which he was in contact with police hostage negotiators.
All of the hostages were let go over the course of the day and no one was physically injured.