Saturday, February 21, 2009
Letter to Tim Rattenbury of Law Reform Branch earns response from Attorney General
Four days after we wrote to the Minister of Public Safety, John Foran on February 5, [click here to read letter to Hon. Mr. Foran] who still hasn't written back to us by the way, we wrote a letter to Tim Rattenbury, a solicitor with the Law Reform Branch of the Attorney General's Office asking for a meeting to discuss reform of the Coroners Act.
We sent a copy of the letter to every MLA, including the Premier and all the Ministers, Hon. T.J. Burke, Minister of Justice and Attorney General, Minister of Education, Kelly Lamrock and of course, the Minister of Public Safety, John Foran.
Here is our letter to Tim Rattenbury and below is the response from Hon. T.J. Burke. We can't help but feel that nobody is taking us seriously, when our concerns keep getting passed around from one Department to the other, meanwhile, a busload of children from Jacquet River nearly gets killed [click here to read our blog about this story] and nobody seems to care about how a wheel could possibly fall off a vehicle that had passed the so called "strict" new guidelines of the Department of Education.
LETTER TO TIM RATTENBURY
Ana Acevedo and Isabelle Hains
February 9, 2009
Tim Rattenbury, Solicitor
Law Reform / Office of the Attorney General
P. O. Box 6000
Dear Mr. Rattenbury
We are Ana Acevedo and Isabelle Hains, the mothers of Javier Acevedo and Daniel Hains, two members of the Bathurst High School Phantoms basketball team who were killed along with six others in a tragic passenger van crash on January 12, 2008.
We are writing to request a meeting with you at the Law Reform Branch in Fredericton where we can discuss our concerns about reform of the New Brunswick Coroners Act.
We believe that at 110 years old, the NB Coroners Act is antiquated and fails to meet the needs of New Brunswickers who have the terrible misfortune to partake in a Coroners Inquest.
Our greatest concern is that the NB Coroners Act is only one of three in Canada that does not allow interested parties and witnesses to have legal representation at Inquests. We are one of those "interested parties" and we want to have legal representation at the Inquest into the deaths of our sons. We want our lawyer to cross-examine witnesses on our behalf and we believe that witnesses as well should have representation. We are also very worried that since Jurors' recommendations are not binding, there is no follow up to make sure that real change comes out of an Inquest.
We view the absence of legal representation as critical to the Inquest process. We are just ordinary people, two mothers who 13 months ago would never have dreamed that we'd be asking you to help us reform the NB Coroners Act. We are not trained lawyers who understand the Coroners Inquest process. We have been told that the Crown Prosecutor and Coroner will assist us at the Inquest by asking witnesses our questions, but we know that in instances where the Crown Prosecutor is unsure about a question, the Coroner has the final say. While the Chief Coroner of New Brunswick may be well intentioned, he is not a trained professional and that is another reason why we need a new Act. Most Canadian jurisdictions have a trained Coroner with expertise in medicine or pathology and unfortunately, New Brunswick is not one of them.
In that regard, we fully support the Canadian Bar Association - New Brunswick Branch in its call for a complete overhaul of the Act.
As you know, in 2003 the CBA-NB presented a report on the Coroners Act in which it called for a wholesale housecleaning of the Act. You can view the report on line on our website at http://www.vanangels.ca/documents/2003-cba-nb-report.PDF
We quote from the Report:
"Tragically, the legislation and procedures in New Brunswick under which an inquest is held are totally inadequate in the context of appropriate investigatory evidence and scientific opinion. They are also inadequate with respect to the manner in which the evidence is presented. The chief participants lack the necessary training, education and experience to appropriately appreciate the unique circumstances in context of forensic scientific knowledge, whether it be in the field of engineering, materials investigation and/or medical science, to name but a few of the matters which are regularly canvassed in other jurisdictions.
Parties who may be subject to this investigation have no standing to participate in the process or the ability to protect their civil rights and reputation.
Extensive law reform has occurred in almost every other Canadian Province and Territory as well as almost every American State."
We have spoken to other people in New Brunswick who have recently gone through Coroners Inquests as "interested parties" and we know that they were not happy with the outcome. We believe that our sons Inquest will put an international spotlight on the shortcomings of NB's Coroners Act and the Inquest process. We are asking you therefore, to meet with us at your earliest convenience in Fredericton so that we may discuss our concerns before the Inquest is called.
Yours most sincerely,
Ana Acevedo and Isabelle Hains
Premier Shawn Graham and Members of the Executive Council
Greg Forestell, Acting Chief Coroner
Guilman Roy, Coroner for Bathurst
Yvon Godin, MP Acadie-Bathurst
RESPONSE FROM HON. TJ BURKE
From: Guislain, Jane (JUS) [mailto:Jane.Guislain@gnb.ca] On Behalf Of Burke, T.J. (Hon.) (JUS)
Sent: February-17-09 3:46 PM
Subject: FW: Attached letter to Tim Rattenbury Law Reform Branch
Dear Mrs. Acevedo and Mrs. Hains,
This is to acknowledge receipt of your correspondence received by email on February 9, 2009, with attached copy of a letter to Tim Rattenbury of the Law Reform Branch. As the Law Reform Branch falls under the Office of the Attorney General, for which I am responsible, I will respond on behalf of both Mr. Rattenbury and myself.
First, let me say that I am very sorry for the loss that you both have experienced. I understand that you have been through, and continue to face, a very difficult situation.
You have contacted Mr. Rattenbury to request that he meet to discuss your concerns about reform of the Coroner’s Act. I would note that the public policy responsibility for the Coroner’s Act rests with the Department of Public Safety. Decisions regarding amendments to the Act therefore fall beyond the law reform mandate of the Office of the Attorney General. For this reason, I am forwarding your correspondence and a copy of my reply to the Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General, the Honourable John W. Foran, who will be in a position to provide a response to the issues you have raised in your correspondence.
Hon. Thomas J. Burke, Q.C.
Minister of Justice and Consumer Affairs and Attorney General