Our co-founding partner, Greg Monforton was recently interviewed by CBC News about the question of replacing mandatory inquests into construction site deaths with annual reviews.
This question is being raised because the Ontario Solicitor General, Michael Kerzner, recently said there are plans to end mandatory inquests. The purpose of the change is to help coroners get answers to families more quickly.
It can take years for the Ontario coroner’s office to set a date to conduct an inquest. For example, a man from Windsor died at a Niagara Falls construction site four years ago. The coroner still has not set a date to do an inquest.
If the government does away with inquests, deaths on construction sites would be analyzed on an annual basis, with the option of conducting an inquest when one is requested.
However, Greg Monforton considers it a mistake to replace inquests with annual reviews. Greg has represented families at several inquests.
“While an annual review is, I think helpful, in my estimation, [it] is simply not an adequate substitute for the requirement of mandatory coroner’s inquests…” Greg said.
He noted that inquests allow an exploration of the unique details of each death. This allows the coroner’s jury to recommend ways to prevent similar deaths in the future.
Windsor Construction Association Executive Director, Jim Lyons, also wants to keep mandatory inquests. He says inquests into Windsor deaths have resulted in legislation to improve worker safety.
Greg also talked about the backlog of requests, noting that the province should provide more resources to speed up the process, not eliminate inquests. In his career, he has seen many inquests result in constructive changes to legislation to help ensure safety.