On the day the Coroners Inquest into the death of our sons ended, May 15, 2009, we immediately requested the transcripts of the Inquest from then Acting Chief Coroner, Greg Forestell.
At the time, Mr. Forestell told us the transcripts would be ready in audio format in about three months but it would take some time for the written transcripts to be completed. There was no mention of costs.
Little did we know that it would take more than eleven months to obtain the transcripts and if we want them, we have to pay $5226 including tax.
We have been asking Greg Forestell for months when the transcripts would be ready and he kept saying they were nearly done, nearly done. We found out yesterday that, in fact, they were completed in February but Mr. Forestell never bothered to tell us. What is most disturbing, however, is the cost of the transcripts. At more than $5000 for a copy, there is no way we will ever be able to afford a transcript.
One of the reasons we want to read the transcripts is because the acoustics in the Bathurst court room were so bad that you could hardly hear the testimony. The room was large with high ceilings and there was no microphone to amplify the witness testimony. Every morning at 9 am the air conditioning kicked in and continued until 4 pm when it shut down. You had to strain to hear the voices of the Crown Prosecutor George Chiasson and the Acting Coroner Greg Forestell. Witnesses with soft voices simply could not be heard. Everyone was complaining that you could hardly hear what was being said but we had no choice because they said a PA system would interfere with the stenographer's ability to hear the testimony through a special microphone that was set up on the witness stand. That special microphone was tied into the stenographer's machine to which she listened with a headset. It was not connected to a PA system, so we in the audience couldn't hear a thing.
To expect we parents who have already paid the highest price imaginable - the loss of our sons in the most tragic way - to pay $5226 for a copy of the transcripts of their Inquest shows the complete insensitivity of the government when dealing with victims of tragedy. That file is probably sitting on someone's computer in a Microsoft Word document and could be sent to us as an email attachment with the click of a mouse. We can understand that in the past, it may have been costly to reproduce copies of large documents but there is no excuse for it now. That transcript is a public document and it should be put on line and made available for free for anyone who wants to see it.
Today in Question Period, Opposition Leader David Alward brought up the issue and although Acting Justice Minister / Attorney General Kelly Lamrock disputed the cost of $5226 that we were quoted, he did say that he would do what he could to make sure that the parents of the Bathurst victims received the transcripts.
We expect the Acting Minister of Justice / Attorney General will offer we parents a free copy of the transcripts immediately as a sign of good will. It would go a long way towards mending the fences between we parents and the government of New Brunswick over the way it has conducted itself in the matter of our sons' deaths.