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An update from the Independent Reviewer

May 27, 2015

As the Independent Reviewer appointed by the Attorney General and the Government of Ontario to report and make recommendations regarding certain aspects of the Motherisk hair analysis program, I would like to update you on the progress of the Review.  The mandate of my Review was expanded on April 22, 2015.

The Review’s mandate now includes an examination of the reliability of the hair-strand drug and alcohol testing methodology used by the Motherisk laboratory for use as evidence in child protection and criminal proceedings between 2005 and 2015. I will also be looking at the laboratory’s conformance with internationally-recognized forensic standards and other matters related to its operation over the same period.  

Finally, I will be making recommendations concerning whether the use of hair-strand evidence in child protection and criminal proceedings warrants an additional review or process with respect to specific cases or classes of cases.  In making any recommendations for a further review, I will consider the nature and extent of such a further review or process. 

As required by the terms of the Order in Council, I will not be reporting on any individual cases, nor will I be expressing any conclusions or recommendations regarding professional discipline matters or civil or criminal liability.

The process chosen by the province is an independent review rather than a public inquiry. Given the nature of a review, and this Review’s focus on the scientific reliability of the hair-strand drug and alcohol testing methodology used by the Motherisk laboratory, much of the work involves collection of relevant information and an examination of the scientific issues. To this end, the Review’s team of legal counsel, headed by Linda Rothstein, has and continues to collect and examine information and relevant documents from the Motherisk laboratory and other sources. The legal team continues to conduct extensive research on various matters relevant to the mandate. 

We have had the benefit of site visits to the Motherisk laboratory as well as to forensic toxicology laboratories. We have retained two internationally-renowned forensic toxicologists who continue to work in close connection with the team. Information about their qualifications is available on this website. We have also benefitted significantly from meetings with representatives of various organizations and legal associations. 

When our mandate was earlier restricted to the period of 2005-2010, we requested submissions from a broad range of organizations whom we identified or identified themselves as having an interest in the topics within the Review’s mandate.  We have received 37 submissions to date, including from family and criminal law organizations and from several children’s aid societies.  Some of the submissions we received commented on the time constraints imposed by our earlier deadline for submissions. Since the mandate has been recently expanded and the timeline to report to the Attorney General has been extended, we will continue to receive submissions from interested individuals and organizations in response to our earlier request.

We will also be posting a date for further submissions dealing with the issues raised in our expanded mandate, including submissions regarding the nature and extent of any additional review or process with respect to specific cases or classes of cases.

If you wish to be notified of the date set for submissions or otherwise provide us with your views on any matter within our mandate, please contact the Review through Joanna Arvanitis, Executive Coordinator, at 416.646.7499 or

I look forward to delivering my report to the Attorney General by the date set out in the Order in Council:  December 15, 2015.


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