Sneak Peek at New Forensics Complex

Image: Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services

Image: Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services

Jim Wigmore had low expectations when he started his tour of the new Forensic Services and Coroner’s Complex in Toronto.

The author of “Wigmore on Alcohol,” forensic scientist, speaker, webinar presenter, expert witness and blogger recalls working in the Grosvenor Street Coroners facility when it was new. Wigmore could not help but be impressed, however. During the special preview tour for former staff, the building, its amenities and details turned him around.

Here is Wigmore’s review of the new complex, taken with permission from his blog, “Wigmore on Alcohol“:

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I had resolved before the special tour of the newly built Forensic Services and Coroner’s Complex (FSCC) offered to retired and former staff of the Centre of Forensic Sciences that I would not be impressed. After all, I had worked at the old forensic lab in downtown Toronto (25 Grosvenor Street) for 29 years and, when I started in 1976, that building was the “new” lab.

However, ten minutes into the tour I was totally blown away and joined in with the rest of the tour group and could be overheard extolling a continuous stream of superlatives like “Wow!, Fantastic! Superb! and Amazing!” It is a truly amazing modern forensic showpiece and lives up to the name of this blog – Billion Dollar Baby – with a cost of $1 billion and, dare I say, worth every cent!

The Layout

The new FSCC facility has over 500,000 square feet in area and is five stories tall. The Toxicology Section alone seems to be larger than the entire old CFS! The FSCC will house the Centre of Forensic Sciences, the Office of the Chief Coroner, and the Ontario Forensic Pathology Service. The building is divided into 2 halves connected by a light airy atrium. One half of the building will house the labs, the autopsy rooms, the biological samples and has its own separate air/venting, electrical backup and water/waste facility. The air pressure (including airlocks) is regulated so no air or possible biohazard contamination can pass from the lab side into the other side of the building or to the outside.

Across the atrium are the administrative and staff offices, library and numerous lecture and meeting rooms. One enormous lecture hall can be subdivided into 8 smaller halls. Security is vastly enhanced over the old lab with the addition of iris scanners to operate doors and numerous security cameras.

The morgue, rather than being in the usual dingy basement, is located above ground and is full of natural light from large frosted glass windows. It has Canada’s only Containment Level 3 forensic autopsy room in addition to ten other autopsy tables and storage for 100 bodies. There are 3 discrete and tasteful family rooms where relatives can identify the deceased by video or up close by looking through a glass viewing area.

The FSCC has 8 large automobile bays to allow detailed forensic examinations and one bay that could fit a large bus. The basement also contains a large modern, indoor firing range, to determine trajectories and distances of bullets. The firing range can also fit large objects, such as cars, to determine bullet hole patterns, shapes and sizes which can be filmed by a high speed camera for later analysis. In addition, it has laminar air flow to prevent heavy metal contamination.

Of course, the FSCC also houses a number of other forensic sections such as Biology, DNA, Chemistry and Firearms, but sadly these were not part of our tour.

The building has numerous green features such as a parking and charging area for e-cars, special parking for car-pooling and bicycle racks. It also has motion sensor lights and a green roof to reduce heat and capture rainwater. There is a feeling throughout the entire complex of light, space and air combined with discrete state-of-the-art technology. It certainly will become a must-see global forensic science destination.

The new facility is located at 25 Morton Shulman Avenue (not yet on Google Maps), named after Toronto’s crusading coroner of the 1960’s and member of the provincial parliament.

Virtual Tour

If you want to experience a first hand look at the new facility, check out the 5 minute virtual tour at:

http://www.videodelivery.gov.on.ca/player/download.php?file=http://www.media.gov.on.ca/82afc9446bf10f22/en/pages/text.html

Thanks!

I would like to thanks Tony Tessarolo, the Director of the Centre of Forensic Sciences and his great staff including Helen McKay, Jon Newman (deputy director), Chris House, Diane Mammoliti and others for this terrific tour. I’m sure they will have a fantastic time working at this amazing new facility over the next several months. I hate to say it but I have developed a bad case of “lab envy” for the FSCC.

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forensic-nite

The new complex is at Wilson Avenue and Keele Street, in the Downsview neighbourhood. It replaces the downtown location and is expected to open this fall.

The six-acre, government-owned site will house the Centre of Forensic Sciences, Office of the Chief Coroner, Ontario Forensic Pathology Service, newly formed Office of the Fire Marshal and Emergency Management, along with their support facilities and technology. It is expected to meet the demands of forensic investigations and criminal prosecutions.

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