Inquest into Police Shooting of Teen to Start

TORONTO - March 20, 2006 - Nearly two years after bullets fired by a plain-clothed member of the Toronto Police Service ended Jeffrey Reodica's young life, an inquest into his death is scheduled to begin on May 8, 2006.

The inquest cannot begin too soon for the 17-year-old's family and Toronto's Filipino and visible minority communities who are still searching for answers, particularly since the Special Investigation Unit (SIU), the agency that investigates police-related deaths, cleared the shooter of criminal wrongdoing. To date, the family's efforts to obtain SIU records respecting its investigation have been stonewalled by government officials.

When the family requested records of the SIU investigation under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA), the agency refused to deal with the request. It asserted that the records were exempt from disclosure due to limits imposed by the Youth Criminal Justice Act. Although he had no prior involvement with the law, police apparently laid charges between the fatal shooting and Jeffrey's death in hospital three days later. An appeal to the provincial Information and Privacy Commissioner (IPC) was refused on the same ground. Efforts to obtain the records of the Toronto Police Service respecting its investigation under the municipal equivalent of FIPPA met a similar response.

Undeterred, the family applied to the Divisional Court for judicial review of the IPC decision respecting the Toronto Police records. They also applied last August to the Ontario Court of Justice seeking access to the police and SIU records under the Youth Criminal Justice Act. For reasons released February 10, 2006, Youth Court Justice Brian M. Scully, held that the Ontario Court of Justice had no jurisdiction over the records. This represented a rejection of the SIU's refusal to grant access under FIPPA. While the family has renewed its request for access under FIPPA, the SIU records have yet to be produced, with only weeks remaining before the inquest begins.

In a bizarre development relating to the SIU records, in November 2005 the Office of the Chief Coroner sought to intervene in the application heard before Mr. Justice Scully. The Chief Coroner's Office sought standing to block disclosure of the SIU records to the Reodica family. The motion was supported by an affidavit sworn by the Deputy Chief Coroner in charge of inquests, Dr. Bonita Porter.

In her affidavit, Dr. Porter advised that the Chief Coroner's Office had issued a coroner's warrant in respect of the SIU investigation in September 2005 and obtained copies of the file. She asserted that it was essential to the inquest process that her office control when and to what extent the SIU file would be disclosed to the parties that would be granted standing at the inquest, including the Reodica family. While the motion to intervene was ultimately withdrawn, Dr. Porter's involvement took on greater significance when it was announced in late December 2005 that she would be the coroner presiding over the inquest.

Citing Dr. Porter's personal involvement in the motion to intervene before Mr. Justice Scully and the statements in her affidavit that her office intends to limit the parties' access to the SIU investigation in the inquest, the Reodica family has asked that Dr. Porter withdraw from the inquest in favour of another coroner on the ground of reasonable apprehension of bias. The motion is to be argued before Dr. Porter on March 28, 2006. Ameena Sultan of Swadron Associates represented the Reodica family in the Ontario Court of Justice proceedings before Mr. Justice Scully. Barry Swadron and Ms. Sultan will represent the family in the inquest. To read more about the case, please visit the Justice for Jeffrey Website.