Dec. 1, 2023 – Ontario intends to do away with mandatory coroner’s inquests for workers who died on construction sites, the government said Thursday.
Instead, the province will conduct an annual review of construction site deaths in an effort to alleviate pressure on overloaded coroners and to give answers to families sooner, Solicitor General Michael Kerzner said.
Inquests of all kinds usually take years from the time of deaths until they are conducted, and similar deaths are often examined together.
The changes are part of a new omnibus justice bill the province tabled Thursday. Kerzner said it’s an effort to speed up the inquest system.
Families and the construction industry can still ask for an inquest by the Office of the Chief Coroner, which has the discretion to call one.
“The proposed amendments would lead to a broader systemic examination of safety issues in construction and would produce more sector-relevant recommendations faster,” Kerzner said.
Coroners will lead the annual reviews and will also bring forth recommendations, something a jury usually does at inquests.
The reviews will involve a number of people, including families and those in the construction industry.
About 40 per cent of construction site deaths over the last five years are falls from heights, Chief Coroner Dirk Huyer.
The annual reviews will be made public six months later.
There are usually between 20 and 30 deaths at construction sites every year, he said. They represent about a third of mandatory inquests.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 30, 2023.