Plush toys and flowers are shown outside Residence Herron in the Montreal suburb of Dorval, Sunday, May 10, 2020. Quebec's inquest into the deaths that occurred in long-term care homes, commonly referred to by the acronym CHSLD, during the pandemic first wave enters its final stage today as it resumes after a month-long pause. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes

Coroner inquest resumes into Quebec long-term care deaths during COVID-19 first wave

MONTREAL — The Quebec coroner’s inquest into deaths at long-term care homes during the pandemic’s first wave resumed Monday after a month-long pause, and the long-awaited testimony of Seniors Minister Marguerite Blais was delayed until Friday.

Coroner Géhane Kamel told the inquiry that Blais’s testimony would be delayed by one day because of a lack of courtroom availability.

Opposition parties have said her testimony is essential for the families of those who lost loved ones in the province’s long-term care network. Almost 4,000 people died in Quebec’s long-term care homes, known as CHSLDs, between February and June 2020, accounting for nearly 70 per cent of the deaths reported in the province during the pandemic’s first wave.

Hearings were scheduled to resume this week in Trois-Rivières, Que., northeast of Montreal, with testimony from two Health Department officials and Blais.

Kamel said that testimony from Martin Simard, who is responsible security inside Health Department facilities, was scheduled for Monday but was postponed because of a last-minute “setback.”

She said Simard’s testimony is critical to understanding what security measures were put in place inside the long-term care network between January and March 2020. Kamel did not say when his testimony would take place.

Pierre Lafleur, a former political aide in the Health Department responsible for quality control and planning, took the witness stand on Monday.