Death investigation

The BC Coroners Service is a fact-finding — not a fault-finding — agency that provides an independent service to the family, community, government agencies and other organizations.

The Coroners Act and Regulation governs the coroner's scope of activity. The Coroners Service is responsible for investigating all unnatural, sudden and unexpected, unexplained or unattended deaths in the province. It makes recommendations to improve public safety and prevent death in similar circumstances.

Anyone can report a death to the BC Coroners Service which they believe meets the requirements under the Coroners Act and should be investigated by an independent body. The majority of cases are reported to the Coroners Service by police, BC Ambulance Service and hospitals or long-term care homes.

However, family members, friends, witnesses or others who are concerned that the circumstances of a death meet the requirements of the Coroners Act as outlined below may also report a death. The case will be assigned to a Coroner who will undertake a preliminary examination of the facts to determine whether the death meets the criteria for a full investigation.

Which Deaths are Reportable to the Coroners Service?

Under the Act, deaths to be reported to the Coroners Service include:

  • Deaths which appear to be the result of an accident, suicide, or homicide.
  • Deaths in which the cause of death is not clear.
  • Deaths which appear to be the result of natural causes but in which the deceased person has not been previously diagnosed with a potentially fatal illness and/or has not been under the care of a physician.
  • All deaths which occur in provincial jails, federal penitentiaries or other facilities where a person is held against their will, such as those committed under the Mental Health Act.
  • All deaths of children under the age of 19 years.