Sask. Justice Minister stands by legislation to make coroner’s inquests no longer mandatory for in-custody deaths

Justice Minister Gordon Wyant stands by legislation to make inquests for in-custody deaths no longer mandatory. File / Global News

After misinterpreting changes to legislation aimed at making coroner’s inquests no longer mandatory for deaths in custody Thursday, Justice Minister Gordon Wyant is standing by the bill.

“There’s an investigation that’s done by the police for any in-custody death,” Wyant explained.

“There will be an investigation by the corrections service, and there’ll be an investigation by the coroner, which will be a public investigation.”

Currently, an inquest takes place for all in-custody deaths that aren’t due to natural causes.

With the proposed changes, the coroner will have the option on whether or not to order a deeper inquest based on the results of the initial investigations.

At this point, there is no obligation to make coroner’s reports public. Wyant said he is having conversations with the chief coroner, and will introduce legislation changes if necessary.

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Justice critic Nicole Sarauer said this will result in fewer inquests taking place, and less transparency and accountability in the justice system.

“The coroner’s inquest allows for the opportunity for there to be further inquiries in terms of interviewing all sorts of different people that may have played into different circumstances that played into this death,” Sarauer said.

“It allows for a jury to be involved and make independent decisions separate and apart from the Coroner’s Office. It’s really important to have that level of transparency.”

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