Office of the Chief Coroner and the Ontario Forensic Pathology Service
Learn about the organizations that lead death investigations in Ontario.
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Office of the Chief Coroner
The Office of the Chief Coroner (OCC) for Ontario provides death investigations and inquests to ensure that no death will be overlooked, concealed or ignored. The findings are used to generate recommendations to help improve public safety and prevent deaths in similar circumstances.
Chief Coroner for Ontario
Dr. Dirk Huyer was appointed Chief Coroner for Ontario in March 2014.
Dr. Huyer received his medical degree from the University of Toronto in 1986. He has served as a coroner in Ontario since 1992 including as Regional Supervising Coroner for the Regions of Peel and Halton, as well as the Counties of Simcoe and Wellington.
Dr. Huyer has specific expertise in the medical evaluation of child maltreatment and has worked with the Suspected Child Abuse and Neglect Program at the Hospital for Sick Children. Dr. Huyer is the Chair of both the Deaths Under Five and Paediatric Death Review committees of the Office of the Chief Coroner. He is also an Assistant Professor with the Department of Paediatrics at the University of Toronto.
Coroner’s code of ethics
All coroners in Ontario must adhere to the following code of ethics while completing their duties:
- Coroners shall exercise their duties and responsibilities without fear, favour, prejudice, bias, or partiality towards any person, group or institution.
- Coroners shall be guided in the performance of their duties by the Chief Coroner or the Chief Coroner’s delegate and in accordance with the Coroners Act and the policies and procedures of the Office of the Chief Coroner.
- Coroners shall, unless otherwise directed by the Chief Coroner or the Chief Coroner’s delegate, disqualify themselves from conducting an investigation or presiding at an inquest where a conflict of interest exists or appears to exist.
- Coroners shall, at all times, conduct themselves in a professional and conscientious manner and shall avoid actions which might bring their office into disrepute or affect public confidence in that office.
- Coroners shall not abuse their position for personal gain. Coroners shall not seek or accept compensation for their coroner duties beyond that approved by the Chief Coroner.
- Coroners shall not act in a manner designed to, or having the effect of, publicizing their personal medical practice, enhancing their personal reputation in the community or leading to their personal gain.
- Coroners shall strive for an investigation that provides a timely and factual report that most accurately documents the cause and manner of death as well as addressing the other requirements of the Coroners Act.
- Coroners shall, in the exercise of their duties, consider and respect the beliefs and/or religious views of the deceased and the families of the deceased.
- Coroners shall avoid making any comments concerning the morality of the conduct of persons within the purview of an investigation or inquest.
- Coroners shall, when deciding on the need for a post-mortem examination, consider relevant religious, social and investigative factors, including tissue and organ donation.
- Coroners shall, in the delegation of their investigative powers to a legally qualified medical practitioner or a police officer, ensure that any individual so authorized will act in accordance with the Coroners Act and this Code of Ethics for Coroners.
- Coroners shall proceed in the public interest to carry out diligently, and with all due dispatch, their duties and responsibilities as set out in the Coroners Act.
- Coroners shall have due regard for the fact that they are performing a public duty and that their actions and decisions affect the public interest as well as the interests of private individuals, groups and/or organizations.
- Coroners shall accept their share of professional responsibility towards society in relation to matters of public health, health education and legislation affecting the health and well-being of the community/society.
- Coroners shall not, in the discharge of their duties, make decisions and draw conclusions beyond the scope of their personal expertise and knowledge but shall seek guidance from appropriate sources.
- Coroners shall strive to increase their knowledge of the proper and effective performance of their duties and shall attend/complete required programs and courses conducted by the Chief Coroner for the instruction of Coroners both in their initial qualification and in the ongoing performance of their duties.
- Coroners shall assist law enforcement agencies and officials involved in the administration of justice in the discharge of their duties so far as possible, having regard to the provisions of the Coroners Act and other relevant legislation.
- Coroners shall not interfere in an investigation or inquest which has been undertaken by another coroner unless directed to do so by the appropriate authority.
- Coroners shall not release confidential information to the public during the course of an investigation or prior, during or subsequent to an inquest. Where the Coroner believes that, in the public interest, it is advisable to release certain information, they may disclose such information as referred to in section 18 (4) of the Coroners Act after consultation with the Chief Coroner or the Chief Coroner’s delegate.
- Coroners shall respect the confidentiality of any information received by them in the performance of their duties except as stipulated in other sections of this code or where otherwise required by law.
- Coroners shall exercise their duties and responsibilities in accordance with the Coroners Act and the Chief Coroner’s Rules of Procedure for Inquests.
- Coroners shall exercise their duties and responsibilities so as to assist the jury to return a fair, impartial, and proper verdict, based on the evidence.
- Coroners shall not, where an investigation or inquest reveals a need for the amendment of legislation or the enactment of new legislation, be restricted from advocating such change in the law.
Unclaimed bodies - claimant searches
Sometimes a deceased person has no identified next of kin and there needs to be a search for a claimant.
A claimant is a person or organization that is prepared to assume responsibility for the disposition of the deceased person’s body, such as a relative, friend, colleague, neighbour, charitable organization or religious institution.
Professionals and institutions that have a role in identifying claimants must practice due diligence in searching for claimants before they request assistance from a municipality to dispose of the body.
Information about an unclaimed body can be collected from a variety of sources since most people come into contact with community and government services/organizations during their lifetime, for example:
- hospitals, family physicians, medical clinics, and pharmacies
- the Office of the Public Guardian and Trustee
- social services
- Veterans Affairs
- foreign consulates
- community organizations or outreach programs, such as:
- Good Neighbour’s Clubs
- mental health service clubs
- church affiliations
- Aboriginal Affairs
For more information on unclaimed bodies and claimant searches, email OCC.email@example.com.
Office of the Chief Coroner forms
Access all Office of the Chief Coroner forms on the Government of Ontario Central Forms Repository.
Ontario Forensic Pathology Services (OFPS)
Under the leadership of the Chief Forensic Pathologist, registered forensic pathologists perform autopsies ordered by coroners.
Pathologists are specialized medical doctors who complete five years of additional training after medical school in pathology, the study of disease. Forensic pathologists also have post-graduate training in forensic pathology, the application of medicine and science to legal issues usually in the context of sudden death. Forensic pathologists regularly provide expert witness testimony in:
- the inquest court
- the Ontario Court of Justice
- the Superior Court of Justice
- the Ontario Court of Appeal
The OFPS works closely with the Office of the Chief Coroner to ensure a coordinated and collaborative approach to death investigation in the public interest. Together, the Chief Forensic Pathologist and Chief Coroner provide dual leadership for the death investigation system in Ontario.
Chief Forensic Pathologist
Dr. Michael Sven Pollanen was appointed Chief Forensic Pathologist for Ontario in 2006.
Dr. Pollanen is the founding Chair for the forensic pathology section of the Canadian Association of Pathologists and the founding Program Director for the forensic pathology residency at the University of Toronto. Dr. Pollanen is also an Associate Professor of Laboratory Medicine and Pathobiology and an associate member of the School of Graduate Studies at the University of Toronto.
Dr. Pollanen is a graduate of the University of Toronto School of Medicine and is a Fellow of the Royal College of Pathologists in the United Kingdom. He received a Diploma of Medical Jurisprudence in Forensic Pathology from the Society of Apothecaries in London, United Kingdom and is a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons in Canada in Anatomical Pathology. He has published over 50 papers in peer-reviewed medical literature.
Publications and reports
Office of the Chief Coroner publications
Copies of reports not available online can be obtained by contacting the Office of the Chief Coroner by:
- 2002-2018 available on request
- 2007 – 2019 available on request
- 2017 Report of the Paediatric Death Review Committee and Deaths Under Five Committee
- 2008–2016 available on request
- 2002, 2004 – 2017 available on request
Ontario Forensic Pathology Services annual reports
Archived reports are available on request.