Death of Four-Year-Old Brody Meekis Ignored – Family Asks Court of Appeal to Let Them Pursue Accountability
May 3, 2021
On Thursday, May 6, 2021, the family of the late Brody Meekis of Sandy Lake First Nation will be asking the Court of Appeal for Ontario to give them their day in court to pursue accountability for the profound failures of Ontario’s coronial system.
Brody Meekis was four years old when he died from what should have been a completely avoidable cause of death in May of 2014 in his home community of Sandy Lake First Nation (“Sandy Lake”). Sandy Lake is a remote Oji-Cree community in northwestern Ontario, a signatory of Treaty Number 5, and one of the 49 member First Nations of Nishnawbe Aski Nation (“NAN”).
Brody had the tragic distinction of being the second child from a NAN community to die in 2014 from complications arising from strep throat. Strep throat is an easily treatable bacterial infection that children and adults in Canada routinely recover from with common antibiotics. Death due to strep throat is something associated with conditions in developing countries. Yet the on-reserve healthcare system did not provide Brody the basic assistance he needed. Following his death, Ontario’s coronial system failed to do its job to shed light on the circumstances of Brody’s death, as required under the Coroners Act.
Brody’s family, including parents Fraser Meekis and Wawasaysca Keno, are pursuing a civil action against the investigating coroner, the Regional Supervising Coroner, the Chief Coroner of Ontario, and Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Ontario. The lawsuit is about the systematic failure of Ontario coroners to properly investigate deaths in remote First Nation communities, and in particular their failure to properly investigate Brody’s death. The claim alleges misfeasance in public office, negligent supervision, and breach of equality rights protected by s. 15 of the Charter. Their case stands for the proposition that the deaths of children in remote First Nations are deserving of equal attention and scrutiny as the deaths of children elsewhere. Living and dying in a remote First Nation community can no longer be accepted as a reason to be ignored.
Falconers LLP has the honour of representing Brody’s family in this litigation.
In 2018, the defendants in this suit brought a motion to strike the claim in its entirety and prevent it from proceeding to a full trial. This motion was successful: in reasons dated April 15, 2019, Justice Fregeau of the Ontario Superior Court in Thunder Bay threw out the claim.
The Keno/Meekis family is appealing the motion judge’s decision. This appeal will determine whether Ontario can be held liable for the systemic refusal of coroners to do their job when their duties include attending on death investigations of First Nations children in remote communities. The appeal will determine whether the under-servicing of these children’s families and communities can ground a claim for breach of s. 15 of the Charter, misfeasance in public office, and negligent supervision.
How to Attend the Appeal Hearing
The appeal is being heard May 6, 2021 beginning at 11 a.m. EST (10 a.m. CST) and is open to the public.
Falconers invites anyone interested to attend the appeal, virtually, at the coordinates listed below. Falconers reminds anyone attending the hearing of the legal prohibition against recording:
Unless permission is given by the court, it is an offence under s. 136 of the Courts of Justice Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. C.43, punishable by a fine of not more than $25,000 or imprisonment of up to six months, or both, to record any part of the hearing, including by way of screenshot/capture and photograph, as well as to publish, broadcast, reproduce or disseminate any such recording.
Attend via Zoom Video Conferencing:
Attend via Telephone – dial-in and enter ID and passcode:
Toll Free Number:
855 703 8985 (Toll Free)
Local Access Numbers:
+1 438 809 7799
+1 587 328 1099
+1 613 209 3054
+1 647 374 4685
+1 778 907 2071
+1 204 272 7920
(International numbers available: https://ca01web.zoom.us/u/g1dFzcnPc)
Telephone Webinar ID: 680 7430 0151
Telephone Passcode: 364063
For more on Falconers LLP’s work representing the Keno/Meekis family, see this update from January 15, 2019: https://falconers.ca/falconers-llp-argues-for-meekis-family-to-have-their-day-in-court-in-action-against-coroners/