Government Commitments

Government Commitments to Truth and Reconciliation

Review Committee Established to Investigate Deaths in Custody

June 28, 2023

NationTalk: The Province has established a standing committee to investigate deaths of people in the custody of provincial correctional services.

The Deaths-in-Custody Review Committee will examine the facts and circumstances leading up to a death and make recommendations to the Justice Minister to help prevent similar deaths in the future. It will examine two recent deaths of persons in custody of the Province and more in the future as required.

The committee’s recommendations will be made public after the Minister receives them. People who are the subject of death reviews cannot be identified, in accordance with the Personal Health Information Act and the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

“The death of a person in custody is heartbreaking for families and their community, and it’s concerning to me as Minister,” said Brad Johns, Minister of Justice and Attorney General. “The Deaths-in-Custody Review Committee will provide answers in the tragic event that someone in one of our provincial correctional facilities dies suddenly and unexpectedly.”

The Deaths-in-Custody Review Committee will be chaired by the Province’s Chief Medical Examiner, Dr. Matt Bowes. Subject matter experts and community members will also be appointed, including a Crown attorney, primary care physician, RCMP officer, a member of the Mi’kmaw and African Nova Scotian communities and a retired senior correctional services official.

The review committee has the authority to access personal and health information held by other provincial departments and public bodies, allowing for more in-depth examination of all circumstances leading up to a death. Part of the committee’s work is studying trends in deaths and recommending improvements.

Changes to the Fatality Investigations Act that took effect in October 2021 allow the Province to establish death review committees. This is the third committee established under the act. The first two committees were created to investigate deaths of children in care and deaths related to domestic violence, respectively.


Death review committees allow for a more timely, in-depth review of the deaths that occur. It’s my hope the families find some comfort and confidence from the findings of a death review committee and know that the death of their loved one has been independently examined by experts. Dr. Matt Bowes, Chief Medical Examiner and Chair of the Deaths-in-Custody Review Committee

Quick Facts:

  • committee members can be added as required should specific subject matter, cultural or gender expertise be needed
  • the committee will provide an annual report to the Minister that includes a description of trends and a summary of recommendations for system improvements
  • annual reports will be public

Additional Resources:

Terms of reference for the Deaths-in-Custody Review Committee are available at:

Fatality Investigations Act: