Coroner’s inquest begins in case of mentally ill man who died in Ontario jail

Jurors at a coroner’s inquest are hearing that a mentally ill man who died in an Ontario jail cell in 2016 should not have been held at that facility.

Coroner’s counsel Prabhu Rajan delivered his opening statement this morning on the first day of the inquest into the death of Soleiman Faqiri.

Rajan told jurors he believes the evidence will show Faqiri should not have been in a jail “lacking adequate health-care resources within a broader system that doesn’t effectively deal with individuals affected by significant psychiatric issues.”

Instead, he said, Faqiri should have been in a facility “that properly understood and effectively treated his significant illness.”

The inquest, conducted virtually, is expected to last 15 days and hear from roughly 20 witnesses.

Faqiri’s relatives have previously said they hope the inquest will provide answers about his death and the 11 days he spent in jail leading up to it.

A 2021 report by Ontario’s chief forensic pathologist found Faqiri died because he was beaten and restrained by guards while clearly in crisis.

The report by Dr. Michael Pollanen found a combination of factors contributed to Faqiri’s death, with two of them – the fact that he had an enlarged heart and his exhausting struggle with the guards – playing a key role.

It said Faqiri, 30, lived with schizophrenia and his symptoms worsened while in jail. He was set to be moved to a psychiatric facility but died before that happened.

Ontario Provincial Police and Kawartha Lakes police both conducted investigations into the case, but no charges were laid.

Coroner’s inquests are held to look into the circumstances of someone’s death. They are mandatory under certain circumstances, including when someone dies in custody.

The inquest jury may issue recommendations aimed at preventing similar deaths, but those recommendations are not binding.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 20, 2023. 

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