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Ontario to do away with mandatory coroner's inquests on construction site deaths

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Ontario intends to do away with mandatory coroner's inquests for workers who died on construction sites, the government said Thursday.

Instead, the province will conduct an annual review of construction site deaths in an effort to alleviate pressure on overloaded coroners, Solicitor General Michael Kerzner said.

Inquests of all kinds usually take years from the time of deaths until they are conducted, and similar deaths are often examined together.

The changes are part of a new omnibus justice bill the province was set to table Thursday.

Kerzner said the changes are an effort to speed up the inquest system.

"This lengthy process may not identify overarching health and safety trends and construction that could contribute to such deaths," he said.

"With this act, the new changes would require construction based deaths to be subject to a coroner-led mandatory review at least once a year."

Families and the construction industry can ask for an inquest by the Office of the Chief Coroner, which has the discretion to call one.

"The proposed amendments would lead to a broader systemic examination of safety issues in construction and would produce more sector-elevant recommendations faster," Kerzner said.

The government is also putting forward legislation that would make it easier for victims of crimes to sue their offenders, Attorney General Doug Downey said.

"Our proposed changes to the Victims Bill of Rights would also make it easier and less traumatizing for vulnerable individuals to sue their convicted offenders for emotional distress," Downey said.

"They would do this by not forcing victims of crime to prove their distress in the civil court system."

The bill would also allow firefighters to issue fines for certain violations, akin to parking tickets.

The government also intends to make it illegal to grow recreational cannabis in homes that offer daycare services.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 30, 2023.

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