Sir: It is with great interest that I read the story, “Thousands of inquest recommendations never carried out,” in The Toronto Star Feb. 15 due to my involvement with the Ontario Coroners Office quite a few years ago.
My name is Mike Neuts, father of Myles Neuts, the young boy found hanging on a coat hook in an elementary school in Chatham on Feb. 6, 1998. Six days later, Myles was officially declared dead, and 16 years ago we had a funeral and said goodbye to my oldest son. Sixteen years! That’s hard to comprehend.
On March 6, 2000, we started a coroner’s inquest. I embraced the idea at the time. We endured five and a half weeks of testimony. We may have gotten close to the truth, but to this day only two people know the truth for sure – Myles and the person who in our opinion, was most likely to have caused our pain.
What an incredible, sad journey for my family.
Our five-person jury was fantastic. The coroner and coroner’s council floundered through the process, doing I don’t know what. Some of the lawyers, well, we will not talk about them here today.
Other lawyers for the school board and teachers unions were very helpful in bringing forth issues and concerns with funding and safety in schools.
On April 12, 2000, we received our coroner’s jury verdict — undetermined, with 24 recommendations.
A new life emerged from those words by that five-person jury. We became self-appointed child advocates for youth, their health, well-being, education and recreation. Many rewards; many challenges.
On Feb. 13, 2002, I wrote an extremely long scathing letter to the editor and sent it to numerous papers. Only the Chatham paper printed it. I heavily criticized the coroner’s office, the implementation of recommendations, the repeating of inquests on the similar incidents of deaths, and the similarity in some recommendations. The Star story looks very similar to my statement of 12 years ago.
Last Valentine’s Day I became acutely aware of the Coroner’s Office putting ads in newspapers across the province. If you had lost a loved one in Ontario and there happened to be an autopsy and inquest, the ad asked people to contact the office for the return of a loved one’s body parts.
I applied. My answer? “We are sorry, Mr. Neuts, we do not have your son’s parts. They are missing.”
I cannot explain that answer, especially since I was unaware of the removal of some parts other than his pituitary gland.
I beg you look at the history of your own paper and the articles of the incompetence of this institution. Look at the documented evidence of dysfunction, hostility towards people who were involved in the system of inquests and defence of this so-called public entity. Look at the squandering of money on the people intimately involved with the implementation of the discharge of its duties to the public.
Ask the survivors of loved ones if we’re happy? The Coroners Office, Process and Inquests were designed to speak for the dead and to protect the living. I suggest it has been a miserable failure and another government office designed to give job security to people who may have had good intentions and failed in the process.