MANITOBA GOVERNMENT INTRODUCES CHANGES THAT WOULD STREAMLINE AND CLARIFY RULES FOR INQUESTS
The Manitoba government has proposed changes that would ensure inquests into deaths of Manitobans continue to be useful tools to serve the public interest, Justice Minister Heather Stefanson announced today following the introduction of The Fatality Inquiries Amendment Act.
“Inquests are an important opportunity to publicly examine why a death occurred and how we might prevent similar deaths in the future,” said Stefanson. “However, the requirements set out under the current legislation make inquests mandatory in certain circumstances and do not give the chief medical examiner any discretion to determine whether an inquest is needed. These changes would help ensure inquests are more appropriate and timely, while meeting the public’s expectations for transparency and accountability.”
The Fatality Inquiries Act currently requires the chief medical examiner (CME) to call an inquest if:
the person who died was a resident of a correctional facility, a patient involuntarily admitted to a psychiatric facility or a vulnerable person who lived in a developmental centre;
the death resulted from a violent act, negligence or unexpected or unknown cause; or
the death may be related to a peace officer’s actions or omissions while on duty.
The proposed changes would provide the CME with the discretion to not call an inquest if the death was due to natural causes, not preventable or if there was no connection between the death and the supervision or care provided to the deceased. An inquest would also no longer be required if criminal charges are pending or if another tribunal or investigative body has reviewed the death. Inquests would continue to be mandatory for all deaths resulting from the use of force by a peace officer.
Other amendments would also clarify the roles of the presiding judge and inquest counsel, allow the CME to launch an investigation into the death of a Manitoba citizen even if it occurs outside the province, and clarify the roles of medical examiners and medical investigators.