MONTREAL -- The coroner has decided to delay its inquiry into CHSLD Herron, the West Island long term care home where dozens of residents died in the early days of the pandemic.

On Tuesday morning, Coroner Gehane Kamel said public hearings into at least 47 deaths at the Herron will take place in September.

Nadine Touma, the residence’s lawyer, requested on Monday that public hearings be delayed. Touma argued that the coroner's investigation could result in prejudice against her clients in a potential criminal case, making it impossible to find an impartial jury should a trial take place.

Police have completed their investigation into the deaths and the file is currently with Quebec's office of Crown prosecutors, which has yet to announce whether charges will be filed.

In the meantime, investigations into other care homes are set to continue as planned.

Maison Herron

The next residence to be investigated is the CHSLD des Moulins de Terrebonne, slated to begin at the end of March.

The coroner will also investigate the private Levis facility Manoir Liverpool, the CHSLD Rene-Levesque in Longueuil, Shawinigan's CHSLD Lafleche, CHSLD Ste-Dorothee in Laval and Montreal's CHSLD Yvon Brunet.

Class-action lawsuits that have been filed -- notably against the Herron and Sainte-Dorothée long-term care homes -- allege there was negligence against the residents. These class actions have not yet been authorized by a judge, a necessary step before they can proceed.

The investigation will also include a component focusing on how the pandemic was handled on a provincial level.

The Quebec ombudsperson has also indicated that they, too, will investigate deaths in seniors' residences during the pandemic.

Coroner's inquests are not intended to find those responsible for the deaths, but rather to make recommendations to prevent future deaths.

This report by the Canadian Press was first published on Feb 16, 2021.