Regional District wants changes to next of kin notification procedures

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The Peace River Regional District is trying to decrease the time it takes for next of kin to be notified after someone dies.

The District passed a motion, on Thursday, to send a letter to the Minister of Public Safety, the Solicitor General and the Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure asking them to review the current process by which next of kin are informed of a death.

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Currently, local police or RCMP in the province cannot state that someone has died without a coroner’s assertion.

District Chair Karen Goodings says she proposed the motion because she believes the police should not have to wait for a coroner before notifying a person’s next of kin of the death.

In the background to the letter proposal, Goodings says her reasoning behind the letter is because of the speed that accredited media outlets and social media sites often report on vehicle collisions. She says the wide distribution of an event can potentially result in family or friends being informed of a death before they are actually notified by police.

Director Evan Saugstad says a coroner has to be called in after a possible death because police and paramedics aren’t considered to have the expertise to determine that someone has died.

There is only one coroner that covers the Fort St. John area. That person is currently located in Dawson Creek, more than 70 km away from the Fort St. John city centre. So, it can take several hours before someone may be declared officially dead and next of kin are notified.

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