Whenever a death or fire of accidental or mysterious circumstances occurs within the territorial jurisdiction of Newfoundland and Labrador there is the potential that a public inquiry, to be presided over by a Provincial Court judge, will be ordered undertaken.
The decision to order an inquiry is not up to the Court. In the case of a non-fatal fire, the decision lies with the Director of Public Prosecutions pursuant to the provisions of the Provincial Offences Act. In the case of a death, the Chief Medical Examiner may recommend to the Attorney General that a public inquiry be held. If the Attorney General is satisfied that an inquiry is necessary for the protection of the public interest or in the interest of public safety, an inquiry may be ordered pursuant to the provisions of the Fatalities Investigations Act and the Provincial Offences Act.
If so ordered, the Court will appoint a judge to conduct an inquiry to look into the facts leading up to the occurrence, and to make recommendations, if any, as to how to prevent repetition of such an event in the future.
Government is not bound by any such recommendations.
The presiding judge is not permitted to affix criminal or civil responsibility for such occurrence upon any individual or corporation or entity. The process is not a search for who to blame, but rather a public airing of the evidence available concerning what lead to the occurrence. The aim is to inform and educate the public and those in a position to make changes for the better to enable them to take appropriate actions, based on the evidence and the recommendations, if any, to prevent or at least minimize the likelihood of another such event.