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Ontario amending death registration regulations

Thursday, December 12, 2019 @ 1:44 PM | By John Chunn

The Ontario government announced on Dec. 11 that it is amending the death registration process to ease the burden for families when faced with registering the death of a loved one in the absence of their remains. The regulatory amendment was announced earlier this week when Attorney General Doug Downey introduced the Smarter and Stronger Justice Act.

According to the government’s press release, this was the situation for the family of Laura Babcock. In July 2017, an Ontario jury heard sufficient evidence to find Babcock had been murdered, even though her remains were never found. Babcock’s parents faced challenges to register her death on this basis, further contributing to the family’s grief.

“Losing a loved one is devastating, and my heart goes out to the Babcock family in the face of such an awful tragedy,” said Premier Doug Ford. “This is a straightforward way for our government to ease the burden on grieving families and ensure they never have to face the same difficult process as this family did.”

The Ministry of Government and Consumer Services, along with the Ministry of the Attorney General, explored changes to death registration requirements that would make the process less burdensome to the victim’s family in these cases, while also maintaining the integrity of the death registration process.

The amendment under the Vital Statistics Act will provide a simpler and faster method for families to get the closure that comes with a death certificate in tragic circumstances where there are no remains. This change will provide tools to assist in facilitating the registration of death where no physical remains are recovered. Court staff will also be provided with additional direction to ensure families have the necessary support in these very difficult situations.

“I extend my deepest sympathies to the Babcock family,” said Lisa Thompson, minister of Government and Consumer Services. “We are making changes to simplify the documentation that can be accepted to register a death in these devastating situations.”

“We want to ensure that in the future, the death registration process is less burdensome for families who experience a similar tragedy,” said Downey. “Families in this situation are grief-stricken and should not have to deal with the difficult process imposed by the previous system.”

Once a death is registered in Ontario, information about the deceased is sent to various provincial and federal stakeholders who use this information to update their records accordingly. A delay in registering a death means correspondence may continue to be issued to the deceased.