Case Summary: Court granted public standing to a First Nation’s representative in a judicial review of Yukon Coroner’s decision not to conduct an inquest
Administrative law – Decisions of administrative tribunals – Coroner; Criminal matters – Coroner’s inquest; Judicial review – Parties – Standing; Remedies – Alternative remedies – Availability
Blackjack v. Yukon (Chief Coroner)
The Chief Coroner of Yukon brought an application to remove the Little Salmon Carmacks First Nation (LSCFN) from an application for judicial review brought by LSCFN on its own behalf and on behalf of Ms. Theresa Blackjack. The LSCFN and Ms. Theresa Blackjack were seeking judicial review of the Coroner’s decision not to conduct an inquest into Ms. Cynthia Blackjack’s death.
 Y.J. No. 111
2016 YKSC 53
Yukon Territory Supreme Court
October 7, 2016
R.S. Veale J.
Ms. Cynthia Blackjack died on November 7th. The Applicant, Chief Coroner of Yukon, conducted an inquiry after being notified about the death. The Coroner conducted interviews and also arranged for Ms. Blackjack’s teeth and blood samples to be reviewed by a multi-disciplinary panel of expert medical professionals in Ontario. The Coroner prepared a 5-page Judgment of Inquiry classifying Ms. Blackjack’s death as Natural and as a result of “multi-organ failure due to hyperacute liver failure of unknown cause”. The Coroner also made eight recommendations directed towards health departments of the government.
The Respondent, Little Salmon Carmacks First Nation (LSCFN), wrote to the Coroner in March 2015 asking for an inquest to be held. The Coroner responded in June 2015 advising that an inquest was not necessary. The LSCFN then filed a petition for judicial review on its own behalf and on behalf of Ms. Blackjack’s mother. The Coroner brought this application to remove the LSCFN as a party to the petition. The Coroner argued the LSCFN has no standing and that there are alternative remedies for the LSCFN to pursue before judicial review.
The Court first considered the issue of private interest standing. The Court concluded the LSCFN does not have private interest standing to bring this petition for judicial review.
The Court next considered public interest standing. The Court held the LSCFN has public interest standing. The Court was satisfied there is a serious justiciable issue, and the LSCFN has a real stake in the subject-matter of the petition. The Court was satisfied that this petition is a reasonable and effective means of bringing the matter before the court, and the involvement of LSCFN will bring a different and valuable perspective. The Court also noted that the LSCFN has the capacity to bring this claim forward and this case is of public interest.
In the alternative, the Court held that LSCFN has standing pursuant to section 10 of the Coroners Act. This section allows the court to compel the coroner to order an inquest into a death.
Finally, the Court considered the Coroner’s argument that the LSCFN should pursue other alternative remedies before seeking judicial review. The Court held that it was largely unworkable to expect the LSCFN to conduct its own inquiry. The Court also considered the Coroner’s argument that the LSCFN could work with the Yukon government to advocate for systemic changes to the provision of healthcare services for its citizens. The Court held this type of political advocacy is not the type of alternative remedy contemplated by the case law. The Court held there was no adequate alternative remedy to judicial review.
In conclusion, the Court refused to grant the Coroner’s application, and instead held the LSCFN has standing to proceed with the petition.
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