The public hearings of the inquiry into the collapse of a mall in northern Ontario are now expected to start in the week of March 4.
In an announcement Wednesday, Commissioner Paul Bélanger said the start date assumes that construction of the inquiry's hearing room at the former White Mountain Academy of the Arts in Elliot Lake is completed and that the commission receives all documents required for the hearing that it summoned.
"We have been working at full speed to gather the information and documents we need before we can proceed with public hearings," he wrote.
"We have so far received approximately 280,000 documents and my team is diligently reviewing, categorizing and classifying them."
Commission investigators have interviewed about 250 people.
The inquiry is investigating the circumstances around the collapse of the roof of the Algo Centre Mall, which killed two people, in June of last year. It will also look into the emergency response that followed.
Documents won't be kept private
Yesterday it was announced the Commissioner Belanger has denied two requests to keep documents confidential.
The first denial was to mall owners Robert and Levon Nazarian, who wanted their financial information to stay confidential after a failed bid to get help with their legal costs for participating. That information will not be kept private.
The second denial for confidentiality was to the Association of Professional Engineers of Ontario, which asked that some people named in documents provided to the inquiry be allowed to review those documents before they're made public — and be given the opportunity to make submissions related to further disclosure or use of the documents.
This comes as good news for several groups who argued against the submissions at a hearing in December — a group that included lawyers for the victims families, the city of Elliot Lake and media outlets, including the CBC.
Commisioner Belanger agreed with those arguments and denied both requests.
In a written decision released Tuesday, he said the "open court" principle is very important in a public inquiry and noted that the process must be clear and transparent.