When the Forensic Services and Coroner’s Complex opens this fall in Toronto’s west end, it will mark a visible change in an evolving area of provincial jurisprudence.
The new complex is at Wilson Avenue and Keele Street, in the Downsview neighbourhood. It replaces the downtown location and supports the public inquiry findings of the 2008 Goudge Inquiry into Pediatric Forensic Pathology in Ontario. Justice Stephen Goudge recommended a new, modern facility to house the Office of the Chief Coroner and related forensic pathology services.
The Centre of Forensic Sciences, Office of the Chief Coroner and the Ontario Forensic Pathology Service, along with the facilities and technology needed, will be housed on the six-acre, government-owned site. It is expected to meet the demands of forensic investigations and criminal prosecutions.
Related changes include expanding the role of forensic pathologists in the system. The Ontario Forensic Pathology Service’s pathologists perform approximately 6,000 coroner-ordered autopsies each year.
Ontario’s Office of the Chief Coroner conducts 16,000 forensic death investigations each year, including inquests into workplace and in-custody deaths. It is responsible for storing human remains, signing cremation certificates and out-of-province shipments, inspecting Schools of Anatomy in Ontario, managing the provincial Multiple Fatality Plan, and supervising and educating investigating coroners and pathologists across the province.
The Centre of Forensic Sciences supports the criminal justice system, as well as emergency responders and investigators. Forensic examinations are performed in cases involving injury or death in unusual circumstances, and in crimes against persons or property. The centre investigates more than 10,000 cases a year. It provides scientific support to coroners, pathologists, police, fire investigators, educational institutions, Crown prosecutors and defence attorneys.
In related news, The Ontario government has announced the first step in a plan to address the representation of First Nations people on the province’s juries. Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) Deputy Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler has been appointed co-chair of a committee that will oversee the implementation of recommendations in a report by former Supreme Court of Canada Justice Frank Iacobucci.
The implementation committee will include First Nations leaders, public servants and others in the justice sector, including a youth representative. It may be ready to begin its work later this summer.
A coroner’s inquest into the deaths of Native students in Northern Ontario brought the issue of jury rolls into focus and led to the Iacobucci Report. Inquest-related decisions have also affected jury trials in the province, of both Native and non-Native defendants.