Lawsuit against coroner after death of Indigenous child should proceed: appeal court

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Ontario’s top court says a lawsuit filed by the family of a four-year-old Indigenous boy against the coroner tasked with investigating his death should be allowed to proceed.

In a unanimous decision released this week, the Court of Appeal for Ontario says the motion judge erred in analyzing two of the grounds of the lawsuit and should not have dismissed the claim before trial.

The three-judge appeal panel says the lawsuit should be permitted to go ahead on allegations of misfeasance of public office and breach of charter rights.

The lawsuit was launched by the family of Brody Meekis, who died in the remote Sandy Lake First Nation in northwestern Ontario of complications from strep throat in May 2014.

It targets the investigating coroner, his superiors and the province.

Court has heard nurses at the community’s nursing station had refused to give Brody an appointment for days, and instead told his mother to give him Tylenol.

After Brody’s death, the coroner did not go to Sandy Lake to investigate in person, nor did he interview the boy’s family or the nurses, despite guidelines on the matter.

Court heard he did, however, ask local police to look into possible drug or alcohol abuse in the family.

A lower court threw out the case in April 2019 before it went to trial, ruling that it had no reasonable chance of success. It found the coroner had acted within his discretion and was not under any legal obligation to attend in person.

The family appealed that ruling.