A new chief coroner

News 26 March, 2018
  • Photo Ben Pelosse
    A lot of bread on the plate for Me Pascale Descary, who has just been appointed chief coroner.

    Claudia Berthiaume

    Monday, 26 march, 2018 01:00

    Monday, 26 march, 2018 01:00

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    A lawyer and a psycho-educator training, Me Pascale Descary has just been appointed to head the Office of the coroner. By accepting this term of five years old, she is given the mission to reduce the production time of reports by coroners to relieve the bereaved families. The Newspaper has encountered.

    Six months after becoming a coroner, you have been appointed chief coroner. Please explain this rapid rise.

    Six months, it is short, but I’m glad to have been able to live this experience because it allows me to understand the reality of the coroners in the field. I myself am a bit surprised, I had not expected to quickly become the head of the Office.

    That is what has led her to spend the University’s ombudsman de Montréal to the coroner ?

    In the context of my second term, I had to do a systemic investigation on the difficulties of the residents in medicine. There was in the background of two suicides of students and it has allowed me to know more about the function of coroner. I saw a parallel with my role as ombudsman is to conduct investigations, and to have a power of recommendation. I’ve applied for.

    What qualities does it take to become a good coroner ?

    Empathy, empathy, empathy. This is an essential quality because we work with families in mourning. The other really important skill, it is the rigor in the investigations. He should go to find all the necessary information to arrive at a finished product complete and of high quality.

    What will be your priority as chief coroner ?

    I am very keen to reduce our production time reports. Currently, it is located approximately eleven months. It is unfortunate for the bereaved families, who need answers. We want to reduce this to nine months as of next year, but we want to stretch to six months. It is a target that you give.

    Coroners are part-time they have enough training ?

    This is another axis that I intend to develop : the continuing education of coroners. The lawyers want to have a little more medical knowledge, the doctors want to be more informed on the aspects of administrative, procedural, etc, I want to give them the maximum support. They simultaneously pursue their professional career in addition to accepting mandates for the Office of the coroner, it is far from easy.

    In addition to lawyers, notaries and doctors, you may consider enable nurses and pharmacists to become a coroner ?

    It’s part of the discussions initiated by my predecessor at the cabinet level of the minister. It is the stage of reflection. Sure it might be interesting to have a larger pool of health professionals because the establishment of causes of death is often medical.

    What are the new challenges with which coroners must cope ?

    Sweet alcoholic drinks, that led to the death recent of our young people. There are coroners experienced who investigate well excavated. It’s going to without doubt give rise to recommendations. It is a social phenomenon that requires further attention. The folder of opioids is also a matter of concern. There is a lookout with public Health to determine the magnitude of the situation. We assist our coroners in the formulation of relevant recommendations to address the crisis.

    Do you have the impression that coroners are sufficient recommendations and that they are heard ?

    This is not the number that is important is the relevance. When we make recommendations, it is necessary that they be necessary to improve a situation. I can tell you that it is agreed, that the coroners have a good credibility, but it is a work in continuous. There is a need to continue to hammer our messages.


    80 coroners (40 lawyers and 40 doctors)


    • on 4518 death in 2016*, or 7.2% of the total deaths in Quebec
    • Of this number, 36 % of the body required an autopsy, and 56 % a toxicological analysis
    • 850 cases per year in Montreal only
    • 5 public inquiries in progress or to come

    Source : Office of the chief coroner * Most recent data available