Who is the Coroner?
The Coroner is appointed by the Minister of Justice. In Saskatchewan, Coroners come from a wide variety of backgrounds including medical, legal, business and investigations.
The Coroner conducts investigations into all sudden, unexpected, and unnatural deaths occurring in the province of Saskatchewan. The Coroner can provide information and support to grieving families.
The Coroner's Death Investigation
For the purpose of the investigation, the Coroner has the authority under Section 13 of The Coroners Act, 1999 to secure the scene of death, conduct interviews, collect information, inspect and seize documents, specimens and objects, and take possession of the body.
The Coroner may liaise and/or work with a variety of agencies including police, Occupational Health and Safety, Transportation Safety Board, SGI, Social Services, Corrections Canada, Corrections, Public Safety and Policing, Health Regions, and local physicians who may have an interest in the death investigation.
The Post Mortem (Autopsy)
In some circumstances, the Coroner may require an autopsy which is most often completed to determine the cause of death, assist in identification, document injuries, or assist in determining the manner of death.
The Coroner will not authorize an autopsy for clinical interest or research.
Is family consent required for an autopsy?
No. The coroner may discuss the need for an autopsy with the family and will consider the family's wishes. However, the coroner will decide on the need for an autopsy based on the circumstances of each death.
The autopsy is completed by a pathologist. There are no costs to the family associated with the autopsy when authorized by a Coroner. The coroner will arrange for transportation. In most cases, the autopsy will be completed within 48 hours.
What happens after the autopsy?
Once the autopsy is completed, the body is released and the Coroner will discuss preliminary findings with the next of kin. Family can notify a funeral home of choice. The funeral home will then handle any arrangements including picking up the body. Your funeral director will provide further information and instruction. The pathologist will complete a final autopsy report once he/she has completed all of the necessary tests and examinations.
The Coroner's Findings
At the conclusion of the investigation, the Coroner will issue a report (Report of Coroner) summarizing the investigative findings. The Coroner may include specific recommendations to individuals and/or agencies to prevent similar deaths from occurring.
An inquest is a public hearing where witnesses are called and evidence heard before 6 jury members. Inquests may be held to determine the facts and circumstances surrounding the death and to bring dangerous practices to light. The Office of the Chief Coroner is responsible for organizing and conducting inquests. The legal authority to hold an inquest in Saskatchewan falls under The Coroners Act.
The inquest is fact finding, not fault finding. It is not a civil or criminal proceeding.
The coroners inquest is public.
In Saskatchewan, an inquest must be held in all cases where a person dies while held in custody, for example, in a jail or correctional facility. These inquests are mandatory. The only time that an inquest would not be held in these cases is where the person died from natural causes, i.e., natural diseases, and the death is not preventable.
In other instances of sudden, unexpected or unnatural death, the Chief Coroner may decide to hold an inquest. These discretionary inquests may be held for one or more of the following reasons:
- to determine the identity of the deceased and how, when, where and by what means he or she died;
- to inform the public of the circumstances surrounding a death;
- to make dangerous practices or conditions known and make recommendations to avoid preventable deaths; or
- to educate the public about dangerous practices or conditions to avoid preventable deaths.