Doctors from outside Ontario granted standing at Ashley Smith probe

TORONTO – The coroner presiding over an impending inquest into the prison death of a troubled young woman has given standing to four doctors who treated her outside Ontario.

Ashley Smith, 19, of Moncton, N.B., died in her cell at the Grand Valley Institution in Kitchener, Ont., in October 2007 after wrapping a strip of cloth around her neck – something she was doing frequently in the months before her death.

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The first attempt at an inquest into Smith’s death went off the rails last year, and after more legal wrangling in the past few months the inquest is set to start fresh on Jan. 14 in Toronto.

Most of Smith’s final year was spent in segregation being shunted 17 times among facilities in five provinces.

After Dr. John Carlisle dismissed a motion from the Correctional Service of Canada and the out-of-province doctors arguing that the coroner’s authority ended at the Ontario border, the doctors agreed to voluntarily give evidence at the inquest.

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They then sought standing, which allows direct participation and the right to cross-examine witnesses, and Carlisle granted it in a ruling today, saying the doctors have a “direct and substantial interest in the inquest.”

Carlisle said the test he had to consider was whether they would be exposed to implicit criticism or censure as a result of their involvement with Smith’s death.

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