Oversight panel orders review of children’s deaths as families cry foul over delay

Dozens of families of children who died on OC Transpo are calling for answers from the Ontario government’s top pathologist following allegations of political interference in his confirmation.

A special Ontario Parole Board panel recently turned down reports filed by Dr. Trevor Fencott, who had submitted reports on 33 prior children’s deaths dating back to 1990, calling them deficient and their origin “unclear.”

However, Fencott, whose confirmation was supported by Ontario’s Public Safety Minister, conceded in a CBC News report that he submitted these reports late.

Many of the children killed were children of diplomats or members of the Canadian Forces.

“The Ontario government has said Dr. Fencott’s reports were incomplete and that the mystery has led to delays in the re-confirmation process,” columnist Dan Scott writes. “It’s not clear if these delays have any effect on the Health Ministry investigation.”

Fencott resigned as a medical examiner on March 21 following allegations that one of his reports contained evidence he knew was in error.

Among the allegations were that Fencott had cherry-picked a list of deaths from high-profile children’s deaths to include in a 2009 report, at a time when Fencott was the lead pathologist in the review of seven high-profile children’s deaths.

“Evidence related to the testimony of another medical examiner brought to the Board’s attention, of Ms. Victoria and Dr. Smith’s recollection of testimony given to the Medical Inquiry into Victoria Lai’s death. This analysis directly invalidates Dr. Fencott’s May 6 report,” the parole board wrote in its reasoning for the panel’s ruling.

A February report from the Access to Information Office revealed that no criteria was included in Fencott’s contract to indicate when he had to submit a new report.

“Why would you assume that it’s in a backlog? That is not being balanced,” Fencott told Scott, adding he was awaiting a phone call to explain the April reports that were his.

“Well, that’s the problem,” Fencott told Scott. “This is a high-profile case and in hindsight, maybe that was a mistake and I just shouldn’t have submitted it.”

Fencott told Scott he never submitted a report on a deadline other than Friday.

Parents’ families on the Public Interest Advocacy Centre’s “Missing and Murdered Kids” list — one of six that requested reports from Fencott — are calling for answers.

“We want to be assured that OC Transpo will carry out proper monitoring and enforcement. Therefore, it is imperative that the Province of Ontario provide us with a process by which OC Transpo undertakes these types of reviews to ensure that no further children are lost to this series of tragedies,” the centre wrote in a statement Wednesday, emphasizing that the victims are unidentifiable.

The families’ list also names seven deaths that the centre says were not covered by the previous requests to Fencott, despite “very apparent” similarities to other children’s deaths.

The scandal surrounding the review of Victoria Lai, who was murdered in 2010, nearly caused OC Transpo CEO Marian Simulik to resign over an email she sent in April.

In the email, Simulik publicly defended Scott, the chair of the board of directors, accusing Scott of a double standard for reporting findings that contradicted previous reports.

Scott, in his tweet on the scandal, notes that Simulik later resigned.

READ MORE: Altered medical examiner report at heart of controversy at Toronto’s OC Transpo

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