Ontario to Replace Mandatory Coroners’ Inquests on Construction Site Deaths with Annual Reviews

Ontario Attorney General Doug Downey said Thursday that revisions to the Victims Bill of Rights would make it simpler for victims of crime to sue their convicted offenders for emotional distress. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)

The Ontario government, led by Solicitor General Michael Kerzner, announced a significant change to the province’s approach to handling deaths on construction sites. The government is set to introduce a new omnibus justice bill which will eliminate mandatory coroner’s inquests for construction site deaths, opting instead for an annual review process.

Shift from Coroner’s Inquests to Annual Reviews

Solicitor General Michael Kerzner highlighted that the existing process of coroner’s inquests, which can take years to conduct, may not effectively identify overarching health and safety trends in the construction industry. He stated, “With this act, the new changes would require construction-based deaths to be subject to a coroner-led mandatory review at least once a year.”

The move is aimed at alleviating the pressure on overloaded coroners and speeding up the inquest system. Families and the construction industry will still have the option to request an inquest through the Office of the Chief Coroner, who retains the discretion to initiate one.

Doug Downey, Attorney General of Ontario holds a press conference at Queens Park in Toronto Tuesday, Oct. 24, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

Broader Systemic Examination and Faster Recommendations

Kerzner believes the proposed amendments will lead to a more comprehensive examination of safety issues in construction and will yield faster, sector-relevant recommendations. This shift is seen as a response to the lengthy and cumbersome process currently in place for handling inquests.

Additional Measures in the Omnibus Bill

Attorney General Doug Downey revealed that the government is also proposing legislation to ease the process for victims of crimes to sue their offenders. He said, “Our proposed changes to the Victims Bill of Rights would also make it easier and less traumatizing for vulnerable individuals to sue their convicted offenders for emotional distress.”

The bill includes provisions allowing firefighters to issue fines for certain violations, similar to parking tickets. Additionally, the government plans to make it illegal to grow recreational cannabis in homes that offer daycare services.