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Faqiri family calls out Ontario gov’t for lack of action on inquest recommendations

Five months after a coroner’s inquest into the death of a mentally ill man at an Ontario jail, his family said Thursday the province has failed to implement any of the dozens of recommendations aimed at preventing similar deaths in the future.

In December, jurors at the inquest into the death of Soleiman Faqiri issued 57 recommendations meant to improve oversight of the correctional service and access to mental health care for those in it.

Jurors also ruled Faqiri’s death on Dec. 15, 2016, to be a homicide, a finding his family said brought them validation they had sought for years.

But Faqiri’s brother, Yusuf Faqiri, said Thursday the province has not fulfilled any of the inquest’s recommendations, including what he called the “easiest one,” a call for a statement recognizing jails are not an appropriate environment for people with significant mental health issues, which came with a 60-day deadline.

“How many tragic deaths and inquests do we need until governments do their duty to protect our most vulnerable and transform the correctional system?” he said at a news conference at Queen’s Park.

“This is not a partisan issue. The government needs to stand on the right side of history,” he added. “We don’t want our loved ones in body bags. Is that too much to ask?”

The family is also seeking an apology from the province and Premier Doug Ford for what happened to Soleiman Faqiri.

Solicitor General Michael Kerzner said his ministry has received the inquest jury’s report and is reviewing it, but did not give a timeline for a response to the recommendations. He said the Progressive Conservative government has made “tremendous improvements” to the correctional system since taking office.

Kerzner did not answer directly when asked if he would apologize to the Faqiri family or why he didn’t meet with them at the legislature, where they were waiting for him after the news conference. Instead, he said his thoughts are with the family.

“I feel very bad for the family. This is a tragedy, as I said in the legislature, of immeasurable proportion,” he said.

Soleiman Faqiri was arrested in early December 2016 after allegedly stabbing a neighbour while experiencing a mental health crisis. He died after a violent struggle with correctional officers that broke out as they were escorting him from a shower to his segregation cell.

The inquest heard that Faqiri, who had schizophrenia, appeared increasingly unwell during his time at the Central East Correctional Centre in Lindsay, Ont., and many correctional and medical staff members expressed concerns about him.

However, Faqiri was never taken to a hospital, nor did he see a psychiatrist, the inquest heard.

The jury’s recommendations included creating an independent “inspectorate” for corrections that would have the ability to launch investigations, and adding an independent rights adviser and prisoner advocate in all correctional facilities.

Other recommendations included establishing a provincial agency to oversee and deliver health care in correctional facilities and ensuring people in custody who have acute mental health issues are assessed by a mental health professional within 24 hours of a court order or remand.

Recommendations issued in a coroner’s inquest are not binding and the finding of homicide carries no legal liability.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 16, 2024.

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