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Alberta government investigates medical examiner’s use of truck trailer for body storage

The Alberta government is investigating after video surfaced showing a medical examiner’s office using a truck trailer to store dead bodies and one corpse being roughly hauled and handled.

The Justice Department says in a statement that it wants answers and expects all workers involved to follow policies ensuring deceased people are treated with dignity.

The investigation follows a CBC story and a video showing a purported funeral home employee dragging and tugging on a body bag to get it off the truck beside a busy commuter road near the medical examiner’s office in Edmonton.

The CBC also reported that internal medical examiner office emails say the refrigerated trailer was brought in last week to handle a sudden spike in bodies.

A security guard keeps an eye on a trailer where where bodies were reportedly stored in rented trailer as medical examiner copes with space shortage in Edmonton Alta, on Wednesday September 11, 2019. The Alberta government is investigating after video surfaced showing the medical examiner’s office using a truck trailer to store dead bodies, with one corpse being roughly hauled and handled.

Jason Franson, The Canadian Press

The emails also included inter-office concerns on storing bodies that way.

Opposition NDP critic David Shepherd agrees the government needs to get some answers, but it first needs to apologize to the families of the deceased.

“These are people’s loved ones, their family. And when they are giving them over into government care, that is with the trust that they’re going to be handled with dignity and with respect,” Shepherd said Wednesday.

“What I saw on that video was frankly, I think, a betrayal of that trust.”

The trailer, with a ramp attached and a security guard standing nearby, was still parked beside the office Wednesday morning.

READ MORE: Calgary MLA calls for investigation of medical examiner’s office after fourth resignation

A Justice Department statement said the medical examiner is reissuing its guidelines to funeral homes to make clear that body removal must be done with dignity.

“The claims of how one of the deceased in our care was handled are very concerning, and we are currently investigating,” said the statement.

“Dignity is expected to be shown at all times to the deceased, and the (chief medical examiner) guidelines appear to not have been followed today.”

READ MORE: Alberta to hire 2 more medical examiners to deal with increasing demand, fentanyl overdoses

In a statement, Justice Minister Doug Schweitzer added he has been assured by the chief medical examiner that steps are being taken to ensure bodies are treated properly.

“Like all Albertans, I was very disturbed by what I saw in the video,” Schweitzer said.

“All Albertans, living or deceased, have the right to be treated with dignity and any disrespect for the deceased or their loved ones is not reflective of our values.”

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