Thunder Bay

Sandy Lake family on hook for legal costs, after case struck down

A court case launched by a family from Sandy Lake, Ont., has been struck down, leaving the family on the hook for legal costs.
The Thunder Bay Courthouse is where Justice Fregeau handed down his decision regarding case involving a family from Sandy Lake, Ont. (Jeff Walters/CBC)

A court case launched by a family from Sandy Lake, Ont., has been struck down, leaving the family on the hook for legal costs.

The family of Brody Meekis launched a lawsuit against the investigating coroner, a physician from Red Lake, as well as the Regional Coroner, and the Chief Coroner for Ontario.

Meekis died in May 2014, when the four-year-old was brought to the Sandy Lake First Nation nursing station with strep throat. He died the same day he was brought into the nursing station, but was told by staff, earlier that week there were no appointments available, or that his condition didn't warrant a visit to the clinic.

The lawsuit alleged, according to their lawyer Julian Falconer, the family was also not interviewed by the investigating coroner, nor visited by the coroner while an investigation took place looking at Brody Meekis' death.

Falconer argued the physician should have personally travelled to Sandy Lake, and should have held an inquest looking into the death.

In the statement of claim, which was amended once, according to the court decision, alleged public misfeasance, as well as discrimination due to race. Falconer noted the coroner relied on First Nations parenting stereotypes to reach the decision that no inquest was required, and didn't take detailed statements from medical staff in Sandy Lake.

In his decision, Justice John Fregeau noted the investigating coroner, under the Coroner's Act, does not need to speak with the family, and that all of the decisions made by the coroners was within the scope of the Act.

The family's concerns that an inquest was not held did not meet the legal test for a trial.

Fregeau wrote none of the claims brought forward by Falconer had any chance of success in the court, and were struck. He also noted the lawsuit was based on an erroneous interpretation of the Coroner's Act.

The plaintiffs, the Meekis family, will now have to pay legal costs for the case. The Coroners Office has asked the Ministry of the Attorney General to not recoup its costs.

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