Inquest called into death of mentally ill man at Lindsay jail
A coroner’s inquest was announced on Friday that will look into the circumstances surrounding the death of Soleiman Faqiri, a mentally ill man who died in the Lindsay jail in December 2016.
In a media release, Dr. Paul Dungey, regional supervising coroner for east region, Kingston, said that the date and location of the inquest would be provided at a later date.
The announcement came on Friday — four days after the Kawartha Lakes Police Service said no criminal charges would be laid in Faqiri’s death. He died in a segregation cell after a three-hour long encounter with correctional officers.
The Faqiri family is pleased at how quickly the coroner’s office has responded.
“It’s an important step for my family to get answers,” said Yusuf Faqiri, Soleiman’s older brother. “Because we’re still seeking answers. We’re still looking to find out what happened to my brother, why he died in government care.”
An inquest is mandatory in cases where a death occurs while a person is in custody or being detained. Dr. David Eden, regional supervising coroner for inquests, said that his office waits for the end of a criminal investigation and confers with the family before going forward with an inquest.
“We’re committed to moving it forward as soon as possible,” said Eden, who said that they will expedite this inquest as much as the legal process permits.
The Faqiris have been battling for accountability and transparency since the day Soleiman died, Yusuf said. It has been more than 11 months since two police officers sat in their living room and told them their beloved son and brother — the family’s “gentle giant” — died in an altercation with prison officers. He was in jail for 11 days, awaiting a mental health assessment.
The inquest is a positive step forward, Faqiri said — a detailed reinvestigation into Soleiman’s death that will occur in public.
“We can’t know less than we do,” said Edward Marrocco, the Faqiris’ lawyer.
In September 2013, the Ontario government committed to a settlement that would put an end to the practice of placing prisoners with mental health issues in segregation cells. Since then, 11 more mentally ill prisoners have died — eight of them being suicides.
Four years later, in May 2017, Howard Sapers, the Independent Advisor on Corrections Reform to the Ontario government, released a report that found segregation continues to be the default tool used to manage inmates with mental health disabilities.
On Thursday, the government proposed changes to the current Coroner’s Act that would see an inquest automatically called when a death is directly caused by use of force by a police officer, special constable or other officer. In the current legislation, these kinds of probes are, under certain circumstances, subject to the discretion of a chief coroner.
“At the end of the day we are looking for what every family wants,” said Faqiri. “Answers.”
With files from Wendy Gillis and Jacques Gallant