WINNIPEG –The Manitoba government is moving to cut the number of mandatory public inquests when someone dies while in the care of a government agency or police.
The Fatality Inquiries Act currently requires inquests, governed by a provincial court judge, to be held almost any time someone dies in a jail, mental hospital or after interacting with police officers.
A bill now before the legislature would create exceptions, such as when a chief medical examiner determines the death was due to natural causes and was not preventable.
An inquest would also not be necessary if the examiner determines there was no link between the death and the care provided to the deceased.
Some provincial court judges have called for the changes, citing the need to save time and resources in the court system.
In 2014, Judge Brian Colli called his own inquest unnecessary after examining the death of an intoxicated man who lost his balance in a police cell and hit his head.
Justice Minister Heather Stefanson said Wednesday the chief medical examiner has also asked for flexibility in determining whether an inquest should be held when someone dies.
“If, for example, they die of a heart attack (and) it’s something where they could have died of a heart attack in a correctional facility or elsewhere, some of these things don’t necessarily need to go to an inquest,” she said.
In most cases, the chief medical examiner’s office would still have the authority to call an inquest if it felt one was needed.
Inquests can run for months and involve dozens of witnesses in provincial court. Reports from seven inquests were issued last year and eight the previous year.