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New construction death review process slated for fall unveiling

Don Wall
New construction death review process slated for fall unveiling

The Ontario government is still months away from introducing details of a new process to review construction deaths, but a spokesperson for the Ministry of the Solicitor General has assured construction stakeholders are playing a significant role in the reforms.

The changes to the Coroners Act introduced by Attorney General Doug Downey and Solicitor General Michael Kerzner Nov. 30, 2023 called for scrapping mandatory inquests into construction deaths in favour of a coroner-led annual review and public report of construction-related deaths each year.

The system then had a backlog of over 100 cases with the gap between a death and the inquest ranging from two or three years to over a decade. Construction stakeholders said the delays arising from the jury inquest format were unacceptable.

The two ministers said the reforms would allow the coroner to hold an inquest into a death if they believe it is in the public interest. The purpose of the reviews will be to streamline and get answers sooner, said Kerzner.

There will be a report published every June.

Stephanie Rea, issues manager with the Office of the Chief Coroner (OCC), reported in April 2024, Ontario Chief Coroner Dr. Dirk Huyer sought advice on the creation of the construction death review process from select stakeholders. Stakeholders included the Ministry of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development, construction sector unions and employer organizations, health and safety groups and family groups.

As part of the presentation, the Office of the Chief Coroner asked participating stakeholders for written submissions addressing the purpose of the review, family engagement, the structure of the review process, how participants are selected to be a part of the review and what format the review process will take.

The OCC requested responses by May 30 and received 17 “significant submissions,” Rea said. The OCC is in the process of analyzing the submissions for commonalities and building a framework process. The OCC will be sharing the analysis later this summer and scheduling working sessions to discuss the final details of the review process.

Rea said the OCC anticipates the final construction death review process will be ready by mid-fall and will then work will begin on implementation.

Delays in inquests stem in part from the government’s requirement that all legal proceedings related to construction mishaps be exhausted before an inquest is scheduled.

It took over 12 years for an inquest into the four swing-stage deaths of Christmas Eve 2009 to be held.

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