Province postpones inquest into death of blind Brampton teen until 2022

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Published November 3, 2021 at 3:22 pm

The Ontario coroner’s office has delayed an inquiry into the death of a young Brampton man who died while attending a school for the blind in 2018.

Last week, the province announced it was launching an investigation into the death of Samuel Brown, who was born with a genetic condition that left him blind, deaf and non-verbal.

Brown died in hospital in February 2018, after being transferred from the W. Ross Macdonald School in Brantford, the province’s only dedicated school for the blind and deafblind.

The investigation had been scheduled for Nov. 15 and was expected to last five days over video conference.

But the province announced on Wednesday that the inquest has been postponed until early in 2022 to allow for an in-person evaluation.

Brown had been a student at the school since he was 4 years old, and Brown’s mother Andrea has said Samuel experienced no problems for most of his time at the school.

Andrea told The Canadian Press her son was in perfect health on the weekend of Feb. 2, and she heard no reports of illness until the evening of Feb. 8 when a staff member called to say her son was “a bit fussy” and unwilling to get up for dinner.

The next morning, Andrea learned Samuel had been rushed to a nearby hospital.

It wasn’t until the Browns arrived at the hospital themselves that they learned Samuel was already dead by the time he was sent for medical help.

The investigating coroner reported Samuel died of natural causes, while an autopsy concluded he died of pneumonia.

Brown’s family have been campaigning for years to get a province-led investigation into the matter, saying medical officials have reached conflicting conclusions about Brown’s cause of death.

The province said delaying the inquest “will address concerns of accessibility voiced by the disability community” and allow for further exploration of the evidence “without the constraints of a virtual environment.”

W. Ross Macdonald School has faced allegations of student mistreatment in the past.

A class-action lawsuit alleged students attending the school between 1951 and 2012 were subjected to psychological degradation, violence and sexual abuse.

The suit claimed staff members forced students to drink from urinals preyed upon the visual impairments of students, sneaking up on them during private conversations and spinning students around to deliberately disorient them.

The plaintiffs settled the suit with the Ontario government for $8 million the day before a trial in the case was due to get underway.

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