Coroner’s hearings begin today into deaths in Quebec seniors’ residences

Hearings for the Quebec coroner’s public inquiry begin Monday into deaths that occurred in nursing homes and other seniors’ residences during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The next three days will be devoted to CHLSD Herron, a long-term care facility in Dorval, one of the hardest hit by the disease. Further hearings will take place in March.

Coroner Gehane Kamel will then investigate a series of other seniors’ residences, including CHSLD des Moulins in Terrebonne, private seniors’ residence Manoir Liverpool in Levis, CHSLD Rene-Levesque in Longueuil, CSHLD Laflèche in Shawinigan, CHSLD Sainte-Dorothee in Laval and CHSLD Yvon-Brunet in Montreal.

Given the complexity of the subject and the significant number of deaths, a coroner with medical training, Jacques Ramsay, was appointed to assist and enlighten Kamel throughout the process.

Only deaths occurring between March 12 and May 1, 2020 are covered by this inquiry.

“Coroners intervene in cases of deaths that are violent, obscure or that could be linked to negligence. Deaths that occur outside of these markers, including those that result solely from a coronavirus infection, are not investigated by coroners,” said a coroner’s office news release issued when the public inquiry was announced in June.

The majority of deaths caused by COVID-19 in Quebec occurred in seniors’ residences.

Class action lawsuits that have been filed — notably against the Herron and Sainte-Dorothee long-term care homes — allege there was negligence against the residents. These class actions have not yet been authorized by a judge, a necessary step before they can proceed.

The Quebec ombudsperson has also indicated that they will investigate deaths in seniors’ residences during the pandemic.

Coroner’s inquests are not intended to find those responsible for the deaths, but rather to make recommendations to prevent future deaths.

-This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 15, 2021.

Coroner's hearings begin today into deaths in Quebec seniors' residences