Family of teen seeks ‘moment of silence’ on anniversary of his death at Brantford school

The lawyer for the family of Samuel Brown says a motion seeking the date for a promised inquest into his death has been on the coroner's desk for over a year. Lisa Polewski / 900 CHML

An Ontario family seeking answers into the death of their disabled teen son at a provincially run school for the blind in Brantford is inviting the community to observe a moment of silence this week.

Samuel Brown’s parents are hoping the observation on Thursday will raise awareness in the community and press the province to follow through on an inquest they promised almost four years ago.

“You can observe the moment of silence at any point in the day,” Saron Gebresellassi, counsel for Brown’s family, told Global News.

Read more: Coroner calls inquest into death of Ontario teen at school for the blind

“At your office, in the privacy of your own home … just take a moment to reflect and to remember Samuel.”

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On board for the initiative is Hamilton mayor Andrea Horwath who says she and her staff will observe the moment on Feb. 9, the five year anniversary of Brown’s death.

Family claim his death has been shrouded in mystery and controversy, alleging Samuel was in good health the weekend before he passed away in 2018.

Brown, who attended W. Ross Macdonald School for the Blind from the age of four, died just days before his 19th birthday.

Andrea Brown, Samuel’s mother, told Global News in 2019 the first sign of problems came on Feb. 8, 2018  when the school called advising that her son was acting “irritated” and was reluctant to get up for dinner.

She asked for a follow-up phone call that day, but the family said no one from the school called with an update. The school called the next day and told the family they were trying to wake up their son, but that he was “unresponsive.”

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Andrea would press an administrator over the phone, asking whether her son had actually died.

Staff from the school admit that he had.

The Browns and Gebresellassi pushed for an inquest in 2019 after preliminary reports the family received offered little detail on the cause of death and how staff responded to Samuel’s behaviour.

The province’s coroner granted a look into the death in 2020, only to postpone the probe in Nov. 2021 telling Global News there were concerns over accessibility voiced by the disability community, as well as a need to further explore evidence.

Read more: Coroner’s inquest into death of teen at Brantford school for the blind postponed until early 2022

Gebresellassi has since filed a motion for a new date, but the province has yet to act.

“There’s been a motion on the desk for over a year,” she said. “They set a date two years ago and then canceled it abruptly at the 11th hour.”

A spokesperson for the coroner told Global News they have received that motion but have yet to make a decision.

Brown’s parents are grateful for the support they’ve received across Hamilton, Ontario and Canada, and have invited the community to reach out to the province.

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Gebresellassi says she has opening submissions ready for what’s anticipated to be a panel of five jurors when proceedings finally begin.

“No amount of inertia, or opposition, or whatever it is that this beast that is being battled, is going to stop the truth from coming out.”

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