Inquest into death of disabled teen an ‘absolute no-brainer’: family’s lawyer

There’s been some progress in the fight for a coroner’s inquest into the death of a disabled teen who died while attending a provincially-run school in Brantford, Ont.

Samuel Brown died at W. Ross MacDonald School for the Blind in 2018 when he was 18-years-old, and his family has called for a coroner’s inquest into his death. The family’s lawyer, Saron Gebresellassi, has said that a preliminary report offers little detail on how the teen died or how staff dealt with his death.

On Thursday, Gebresellassi met with the province’s deputy chief coroner and the regional supervising coroner and although there was no commitment to an inquest, she said she’s optimistic about that possibility.

She said the deputy chief coroner said they’re concerned when children die while in the care of the province and that their mandate is to ensure no death is ever overlooked or concealed.

“They demonstrated a level of empathy with the family about the loss of their son,” said Gebresellassi.

Another meeting will be held in the coming weeks, during which Gebresellassi said there will be even more evidence, statements from other parents at W. Ross MacDonald, and letters of support from stakeholders and elected officials.

Samuel’s death follows a class-action lawsuit against the province, in which the school accused the government of being negligent in the management and operation of the school, resulting in physical, sexual, and mental abuse and harm to students.

The Ontario government denied the claims and in 2017, both sides reached an $8-million settlement.

Gebresellassi said they haven’t ruled out taking the case even further to get the inquest, including potentially calling on the premier, the OPP, or even the United Nations’ Human Rights Committee.

“There is no way that our premier would be opposed to an inquest. In fact, there is not a single Canadian that would be opposed to an inquest. And I would challenge you to find one Canadian that would be opposed to an inquest, and you would come back empty-handed.”

“It’s a no-brainer. A coroner’s inquest is an absolute no-brainer.”

If the coroner’s office refuses to go ahead with an inquest, Gebresellassi said they are “fully prepared” to take the matter to court.

“The people of Ontario will settle for nothing less than a coroner’s inquest,” she said.

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