After participating as counsel in five coroner’s inquests lately, here are some of my opinions on the process:

1. It takes far too long. It now takes years before a coroner’s inquest is held into a death. When Larry Campbell was Chief Coroner, it took an average of about seven months to hold an inquest.

2. In police-involved deaths, the coroner’s office defers to the police and lacks independence.

3. The family has no access to legal aid for legal representation. Typically, all the other participants and their counsel receive public funding from the taxpayer for their lawyers.

4. The family of the deceased is not entitled to make any submissions to the jury or suggest any recommendations to it.

5. The family cannot view documents unless it signs a promise not to disclose their contents. This despite the fact an inquest is supposed to be a public hearing designed to assure the community that the circumstances of a death are not overlooked, concealed or ignored.

6. The manner of selecting the five person jury is a mystery.

7. The jury’s recommendations are not binding. The provincial government has ignored jury recommendations made in 2004 that the police not be allowed to investigate themselves in police-involved homicides and that the family be given public legal aid funding, among others.

In conclusion, the process is most unsatisfactory from the family’s point of view. If reforms are not made, I doubt the utility of any family participating in any future coroner’s inquests in the province.