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Review Committee to investigate deaths of people while in custody

By Caitlin Snow Jun 29, 2023 | 11:52 AM

Scazon / CC

The province has established a standing committee that will investigate when people die while in custody of provincial correctional services.

The Deaths-In-Custody Review Committee will examine facts and circumstances that lead up to a death and make recommendations to the province’s Justice Minister, to help prevent future deaths.

Once they are reviewed, the findings will be made public. People who are the subject of death reviews cannot be identified, in accordance with the Personal Health Information Act and the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

“The death of a person in custody is heartbreaking for families and their community, and it’s concerning to me as Minister,” said Brad Johns, Minister of Justice and Attorney General. “The Deaths-in-Custody Review Committee will provide answers in the tragic event that someone in one of our provincial correctional facilities dies suddenly and unexpectedly.”

The committee will be chaired by the Province’s Chief Medical Examiner, Dr. Matt Bowes. Subject matter experts and community members will also be appointed, including a Crown attorney, primary care physician, RCMP officer, a member of the Mi’kmaw and African Nova Scotian communities and a retired senior correctional services official.

The review committee will be authorized to access personal and health information held by other provincial departments and public bodies. This will allow for a more in-depth examination into circumstances leading up to a death. Studying trends and recommending improvements will be part of the committee’s work.

As of October 2021, the province is able to establish death review committee’s. This is the third, the first two investigated into death of children and that of domestic violence.

“Death review committees allow for a more timely, in-depth review of the deaths that occur. It’s my hope the families find some comfort and confidence from the findings of a death review committee and know that the death of their loved one has been independently examined by experts.”
– Dr. Matt Bowes, Chief Medical Examiner and Chair of the Deaths-in-Custody Review Committee

Quick Facts:
— committee members can be added as required should specific subject matter, cultural or gender expertise be needed
— the committee will provide an annual report to the Minister that includes a description of trends and a summary of recommendations for system improvements
— annual reports will be public


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