[Click here to read letter to Hon. John Foran, NB Minister of Public Safety, in Word format].
Isabelle Hains and Ana Acevedo
February 5, 2009
Hon. Mr. John Foran
Minister of Public Safety
364 Argyle Street
Fredericton, New Brunswick
Hon. Mr. John Foran:
We are the mothers of Daniel Hains and Javier Acevedo, two high school basketball players from Bathurst who were killed in a horrific tragedy along with six others last January 12, 2008. We are writing to explain our position on the New Brunswick Coroners Act and the upcoming Coroners Inquest, which we understand will take place in April or May 2009.
When we spoke to you by phone before the Inquest was called, we were optimistic that it would result in meaningful changes that would prevent tragedies like this from ever happening again. However, we have since learned that this is not the case.
We have been educating ourselves about the NB Coroners Act and have learned that the Canadian Bar Association-NB Branch, has been pleading for changes to the Act for more than five years. (See CBA-NB’s 2003 Report “Bringing Death Investigations into the 21st Century: A Review and Recommendations for Necessary Changes in the Coroners System” on our website at http://www.vanangels.ca/documents/2003-cba-nb-report.PDF ).
In fact, we know that David O’Brien of the CBA-NB Branch wrote to you personally on April 21, 2008, while Bill 48, An Act to Amend the Coroners Act, was being considered by the Legislature, and asked you to “create standing for victims and other interested parties at Inquests” and to “initiate a comprehensive review of the Coroners Act with a view to modernizing it as almost all other Provinces have already done.” (For full text of letter, go to http://www.vanangels.ca/documents/2008-04-21-cba-nb.PDF).
When we went public with our calls for a Coroners Inquest on December 12, 2008, the Telegraph Journal produced a series of articles and editorials about the Coroners Act and the Inquest process. One article, dated December 16, 2008, quoted Mr. O’Brien as saying that the association has repeatedly asked successive provincial governments to modernize the antiquated act governing death investigations, but to no avail. You have been quoted, as saying there was nothing wrong with the Act.
We strongly disagree.
The NB Coroners Act is 110 years old. When the Act was introduced in 1899, airplanes, fast cars, and modern forensic investigations were inventions of the future. Today, the NB Coroners Act is one of only three in Canada, which has not been brought into the 21st century. Of particular concern is the fact that we are not permitted standing which would allow our lawyers to cross-examine witnesses.
We want answers to our questions and recommendations from a fully informed jury, which has heard witness testimony under, cross-examination. But because this fatal crash occurred in New Brunswick, we, the grieving parents of two dead sons, do not have the right to have legal representation at the Inquest, to call witnesses, to ask questions of other witnesses or make submissions as is done in most other jurisdictions, including Nova Scotia, Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia.
Our position always was and remains that there are too many unanswered questions which need to be answered in an open and transparent forum. We agree with the CBA-NB 2003 report and its April 21, 2008 letter urging you to make changes to the Act.
Although we missed the opportunity afforded by Bill 48, we know that when a government has the political will to do something quickly, it can move fast to change legislation. Establishing an Interim Coroners Act based on the existing one in force in Nova Scotia would be an expedient and efficient solution in the short term.
Specifically, we urge you to implement the recommendations that were sent to you on April 21, 2008 by David O’Brien of the CBA-NB Branch:
a) …create standing for victims and other interested parties at Inquests
b) initiate a comprehensive review of the Coroners Act with a view to modernizing it as almost all other Provinces have already done.
In the memory of our sons so that their deaths may not be in vain, we implore you to update the Coroners Act before their Inquest takes place in the spring.
We hope to hear from you soon regarding this request to change the Coroners Act. We are willing to meet with you at your convenience to discuss this very important matter and can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you for taking the time to read this letter.
Isabelle Hains and Ana Acevedo
cc. Premier Shawn Graham and Members of the Executive Council
All NB MLAs
Greg Forestell, Acting Chief Coroner, Department of Public Safety
Guilman Roy, Coroner, Bathurst
Yvon Godin, Member of Parliament, Acadie-Bathurst