NDP Calls for independent review of coroner's service
VICTORIA — The delay in the Brook Amber Young inquest and the failure of the BC Coroner's Service to launch an inquest into the Grant de Patie case are examples of a death review system in need of fundamental reform, NDP MLAs Adrian Dix and Jagrup Brar said today.
An inquest into the death of three-year-old Brooke Amber Young is set to start today in Kelowna, almost exactly six years after the little girl died in her Kelowna home on April 29, 2000. Last week, the Chief Coroner refused the request of the de Patie family to hold an inquest into the tragic death of Grant de Patie.
The BC Liberal government's Core Review in 2002 ordered the BC Coroner's Service to dramatically cut the number of autopsies and inquests. According to then-Solicitor General Rich Coleman's instructions, "the Coroner's Service will set stricter criteria for conducing coroner's inquests and autopsies…" The consequences for the quality of death reviews in British Columbia were immediate and negative.
Last week, the Official Opposition released information from BC Vital Statistics about the declining number of autopsies performed by the Coroner's Service since the 2002 Core Review. There were 2,628 autopsies performed by the BCCS in 2001 and 1,593 in 2004, the most recent year for which we have statistics. Moreover, not a single medical inquest has been ordered since the BC Liberals took office in 2001.
"The six-year delay in launching an inquest into the Brooke Amber Young case and the refusal of the Chief Coroner to launch an inquest in the Grant de Patie case are indicative of the chaotic state and declining standards of the BC Coroner's Service over the past five years," said Jagrup Brar, MLA for Surrey-Panorama Ridge.
"We have had to wait for six years for the Brook Amber Young inquest, an unacceptable delay that may well affect witness testimony. Six years is far too long for the coroner to meet its stated goal of ensuring no death is overlooked, concealed or ignored. To say the least it is very problematic. The coroner's office also has responsibility for child death reviews, which didn't happen in this case either," noted Adrian Dix, MLA for Vancouver Kingsway.
"The Grant de Patie case should clearly go to inquest. There are important public policy issues related to this case and it is the Coroner's job to address them. The Chief Coroner should reverse his decision and proceed with an inquest in this case," said Dix.
Dix also noted that a Coroner's Judgment of Inquiry into the Daniel Marks case was released today. Initially, the Coroner found that Mr. Marks died of a heart attack. However, following an autopsy, the Coroner found the Mr. Marks died from choking.
"In 2002, the BC Liberals interfered politically in the autopsy and inquest process. We have witnessed the consequences of their misguided efforts for five years. The Solicitor General needs to call for an immediate independent review of the BC Coroner's Service," said Dix.
"In addition, the Premier and the Solicitor General need to formally withdraw their 2002 instructions to the BCCS and order the reinstatement of the pre-2002 standard of service. Only then will the public and grieving families regain confidence in the competence of the death review system in British Columbia," concluded Dix.