Inquest into Quebec long-term care deaths delayed after lawyer seeks postponement

·2 min read

MONTREAL — A long-awaited coroner's inquest into COVID-19-related deaths at several Quebec long-term care homes was delayed Monday after a lawyer for one of the facilities asked for a postponement.

The first days of the hearing were to focus on the Residence Herron in Dorval, Que., one of the hardest hit during the first wave of the pandemic and where 47 people died.

But from the onset of the proceedings, a lawyer for Herron's owners called for the hearings into her client's facility to be put off. Nadine Touma argued that prosecutors haven't decided if they intend to charge the owners of the long-term care home and that the inquest could prejudice her clients.

Touma said if the coroner rejects the request to postpone the hearings then she should at least order a publication ban on all the evidence presented regarding her clients — at least until a decision is taken on criminal charges.

Coroner Gehane Kamel said she would announce her decision Tuesday morning.

Lawyers for some of the families of those who died at Herron argued against a publication ban. "The families that I represent have been waiting for answers for over a year," Patrick Martin-Menard, representing four families, said at the hearing.

The coroner's mandate is to investigate what happened at Herron during the pandemic and at six other long-term care homes in Quebec: CHSLD des Moulins de Terrebonne; Manoir Liverpool in Levis; CHSLD Rene-Levesque in Longueuil; CHSLD Lafleche in Shawinigan; CHSLD Sainte-Dorothee in Laval and CHSLD Yvon-Brunet in Montreal.

The vast majority of deaths attributed to COVID-19 in Quebec have occurred in long-term care homes and private seniors residences. Coroner's inquests are not intended to assign blame, but to make recommendations to avoid similar occurrences.

Meanwhile, Quebec's health minister said Monday he was hopeful a shipment of vaccines this week from Pfizer-BioNTech will help the province ramp up its plan to vaccinate seniors home residents. The Health Department said it was expecting 91,260 Pfizer doses this week but none from Moderna, the other vaccine approved by Health Canada.

Quebec said it administered 912 doses of COVID-19 vaccine Sunday, for a total of 294,886.

Health officials reported 728 new cases of COVID-19 Monday and 16 more deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus, including five in the previous 24 hours. They said hospitalizations dropped by one, to 804, and 136 people were in intensive care, a rise of four.

Quebec has reported a total of 277,518 COVID-19 cases and 10,229 deaths linked to the virus. It has 9,855 active reported cases of the disease.

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

Stephanie Marin, The Canadian Press