(PHOTO: Clive Weighill delivers is report into external review of Coroner’s Service. By Dan Jones)
Former Saskatoon Police Chief Clive Weighill says he has not noticed systemic racial bias within the Sask. Coroner Service.
“I understand a lot of people from our Indigenous community have a lot of mistrust with government organizations when they feel they’re treated or discriminated against. I didn’t find that. I know they may feel that, but I didn’t find that as I talked to people across the province,” Weighill said. “I heard that from people who thought they were not treated fairly by the Coroner’s Office and they thought it was because of their race. When I dug into this, the same complaints they had are the same complaints other people had. It was a common complaint…‘toxicology is taking too long, I wanted an inquest, I didn’t get an inquest.’”
Weighill says he met with the family of Nadine Machiskinic during his review, but refused to elaborate on the discussions, saying “I don’t want to put words in their mouth.”
Machiskinic fell 10 floors to her death down a laundry chute at the downtown Regina hotel in January of 2015. The death was the subject of an inquest, which concluded the manner of death was undetermined, contradicting an earlier report from the provincial coroner, who ruled it as accidental.
Weighill is recommending that Coroner’s Service staff respect cultural traditions of Indigenous Peoples and that the TRC’s Calls to Action be developed onto a strategic plan.
Justice Minister Don Morgan says he is happy Weighill did not final racial bias, but NDP Justice Critic Nicole Sarauer questions whether employees would actually share such concerns with Weighill during his examination.
The report calls for more support and training for community coroners. Weighill says in some instances these people get valuable information police don’t due to their trust with the community.
Weighill says he would like to see more of a clear divide between the on-scene work of police and the coroner, to allow better job functioning. He says currently there is no PTSD support for community coroners, recommending this is needed due to the nature of the job.
Weighill referenced the Fond du Lac plane crash last December, which killed one person. Weighill wants to see a mass casualty plan developed for tragedies like this and the Humboldt bus crash.
In all 44 recommendations were made highlighting an overworked and understaffed coroner’s office.
Morgan says he accepts all the recommendations and is committed to swift action, but would not say how much money is needed for these improvements.
(With files from Manfred Joehnck)