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Inquest to be held in 2020 death of Ontario girl, 4, found with father at bottom of cliff

Ontario will hold an inquest into the case of Keira Kagan, a four-year-old girl found dead with her father at the bottom of a cliff west of Toronto in 2020, the province’s chief coroner says.

The date and location of the inquest has not yet been announced; however, the focus will be on examining the circumstances of the little girl’s death. The inquest’s jury may also make recommendations aimed at preventing similar deaths.

Kagan’s body was found exactly three years ago on Feb. 9, 2020, at Rattlesnake Point conservation area in Milton, Ont. 

At the time, police said both Kagan and her father, Robin Brown, appeared to have suffered significant trauma consistent with a fall.

Hikers have died in the area before, but Kagan’s mother and stepfather have said they believe the deaths were a murder-suicide. That assertion has not been tested in court.

WATCH | Ontario mother says courts could have prevented her daughter’s death:

inquest to be held in 2020 death of ontario girl 4 found with father at bottom of cliff

Ontario mother says courts could have prevented her daughter’s death

3 years ago

Duration 8:46

Keira Kagan, 4, died in February while in her father’s care. Her mother, Jennifer Kagan-Viater, believes Keira’s death could have been prevented if the court system had considered accusations of spousal abuse during their bitter custody battle. She is now fighting for change.

In a statement Thursday, her mother’s lawyer Justin Linden said, “Jennifer struggled at every turn to call attention to the danger that her ex-husband presented and to seek help.”

The statement says the inquest is an “an important step in the road to accountability,” adding it shines a light on the “neglect” Kagan’s mother, Jennifer Kagan, believes led to her death.

Asked how Jennifer felt upon hearing of the inquest, Linden said: “Happy is the word. I think it’s just relief that finally, finally, finally she’s being heard.”

Review identifies 22 risk factors 

Jennifer and Brown separated when Kagan was nine months old. Jennifer had since remarried, and the pair has been embroiled in a bitter custody dispute before Kagan was found dead.

Jennifer previously told CBC News that a case worker with Jewish Family and Child Services promised to launch an application in court showing Kagan needed protection from her father and that his visitation rights should be rescinded.

Two days later, he and his daughter were dead. 

“The mother still had to allow her daughter to see the father for a weekend visit on a Friday as part of the existing court order. The court was to review the father’s parenting time the following week,” said a report by the province’s Domestic Violence Death Review Committee. “However, the daughter died on Sunday.”

The report also identified 22 risk factors of intimate partner homicide — factors it says are consistent with cases “deemed predictable and preventable.”

A report by the province's Domestic Violence Death Review identified 22 risk factors of intimate partner homicide — factors it says are consistent with cases "deemed predictable and preventable."
A report by the province’s Domestic Violence Death Review identified 22 risk factors of intimate partner homicide — factors it says are consistent with cases “deemed predictable and preventable.” (Domestic Violence Death Review Committee)

A coroner’s report determined Keira died of blunt force trauma to the head and notes while the police investigation did not determine exactly what led up to Keira’s death, police “identified multiple risk factors for domestic violence in Keira’s father.” 

Upon completion the coroner’s investigative report, the case was referred to its Domestic Violence Death Review Committee for further analysis and potential recommendations to prevent similar deaths in the future.

Deaths may have been ‘retribution’: report

“The deaths may have been retribution on the part of the father against the mother for terminating the relationship, re-marrying a new partner, and having a new family and/or for the on-going family court litigation,” the review found.

“The mother sensed danger as the court seemed to be signaling concern over the father’s existing parenting time.”

Kagan’s family later filed a lawsuit against Jewish Family and Child Services, which has previously declined to comment to CBC News. 

Her mother also told CBC News Kagan’s death could have been prevented if the court system had considered accusations of spousal abuse during their custody court case. 

Last year, a private members bill in Kagan’s name was tabled in the House of Commons. 

Bill C-233, dubbed “Keira’s Law,” aims to expand training for judges to include domestic violence and coercive control.

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