The role of the Coroner
The coroner is a public officer (physician, lawyer or notary) appointed by the Québec government under the authority of the Chief Coroner.
He must intervene in the following situations:
- When a death occurred in violent circumstances (accident, suicide, homicide), obscure or as a result of negligence;
- When the cause of death is unknown;
- When the identity of a deceased person is unknown;
- When a death occurs in a rehabilitation centre, penitentiary or detention centre, in an intensive supervision unit within the meaning of the Youth Protection Act, in a police station, in a day-care centre, in a foster family and in custody in a health facility.
What is the coroner's mandate?
About 10% of the deaths that occur each year in Québec are reported to the coroner. Its mandate is to answer five questions:
- Who died?
- Where did this person die?
- When did this person die?
- What are the likely causes of death?
- What are the circumstances of the death?
In response to these five questions, the coroner conducts investigations and public inquiries and prepares a public report presenting his findings. If necessary, the coroner also makes recommendations to help avoid similar deaths in the future. However, he cannot in any case decide on the civil or criminal liability of a person.
The investigation is possible with the collaboration of:
Police agency and its officers to conduct the investigation and gather much of the information the coroner needs. The latter must wait for the police report before producing his own.
Laboratory of Forensic Sciences and Forensic Medicine (LSJML)
Autopsy, DNA analysis, forensic anthropology and odontology are some of the scientific expertise LSJML performs at the request of the coroner. The coroner must wait for the result of LSJML expertise to produce his own report.
Toxicology Centre of the National Institute of Public Health of Québec
The Toxicology Center carries out toxicological tests to detect the presence of drugs, drugs or alcohol in the bodies of deceased persons. The result of these tests is necessary for the coroner to write his report.
All these tests and analysis takes time. It could take up to one year before obtaining the result of LSJML expertise to finalize a police or coroner report.
(LSJML: Laboratoire de science judiciaire et de médecine légale)