The Centre of Forensic Sciences (Ontario)
Centre Of Forensic Sciences
The following was summarized, with permission, from the "Lab Guide for The Investigator" and a paper given by Doug Lucas at the California Association of Criminalists 87th Semi-annual Seminar in May 1996
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The Centre of Forensic Sciences (CFS) in the Province of Ontario came into being in 1966 with the passing of an Order-in-Council changing the name of the Attorney General's Laboratory and broadening the terms of reference. The Attorney General's Laboratory had been organized in 1951. The Centre is a Branch of the Public Safety Division of the Ministry of the Solicitor General and Correctional Services of the Province of Ontario. In 1986, as part of the Northern Initiative Program, the Ontario Government approved the establishment of the first regional forensic science laboratory. The new laboratory, the Northern Regional Forensic Laboratory (NRFL), located in Sault Ste. Marie, became operational in July 1992.
The objectives of the two forensic laboratories are:
To assist in the just and effective enforcement of the law through:
The production of evidence in a legally admissible form for law enforcement officers. crown attorneys, lawyers, coroners, pathologists and official investigative agencies by means of the scientific examination. analysis. evaluation and interpretation of physical objects and materials.
The provision of educational programs and materials for persons and agencies using forensic science services.
The conduct and encouragement of research to expand forensic science services.
The Northern Regional Forensic Laboratory provides services to regions of Northern Ontario and the Centre of Forensic Sciences provides services to the remainder of the Province. These services include biological, chemical, photographic. toxicological, firearms/toolmarks and document examination. All are provided at no cost to all official investigative agencies and to defense counsel in criminal cases. In addition. some of the services are available to counsel in civil cases in those aspects of forensic science where such services are not available elsewhere in the Province. Fees are charged for services in civil cases and are paid to the Treasurer of Ontario.
Staff of the two forensic laboratories are also available for "on-the-scene" examinations upon request. Such requests should be made by telephone to the Director's Office in Toronto or the Manager in Sault Ste. Marie where the decision will be made as to the necessity for such examinations. After normal working hours, senior members of the staff are on call and available.
Laboratory reports in criminal investigations are normally addressed to the crown attorney responsible with a copy to the investigating officer. Where a death is involved a copy is also sent to the Chief Coroner's Office. In coroner's cases, reports are sent to the coroner with copies to the pathologist, the investigating officer and the Chief Coroner's Office.
Items are received from defense counsel in criminal cases on the written understanding that counsel will provide a copy of the report to the crown attorney. Civil cases are received only from lawyers on their acceptance of the Centre's schedule of fees, and are reported only to the submitting lawyer.
Role of Forensic Science
The importance of forensic science in criminal and other investigations is almost impossible to assess with any accuracy. In some investigations and trials, its role is relatively minor and often the outcome would be the same without any scientific evidence. There are, however, an increasing number of cases where forensic science can and does make a vital contribution. As the body of knowledge and techniques increases, scientific evidence becomes even more important in a greater proportion of cases.
For forensic science to make its proper contribution to the administration of justice, it is essential that investigators have an understanding of what the forensic laboratory can and cannot do. Investigators must also have an appreciation of what they must do to make the best use of the laboratory services available.
The Federal and Provincial governments are parliamentary in nature. The Federal Parliament of Canada consists of an elected House of Commons and an appointed Senate. The executive authority lies in the Prime Minister and his Cabinet. The Prime Minister is the leader of the party which has the most seats in the House of Commons. The leader of the party with the next largest number of seats is referred to as 'Leader of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition'. In the provinces, the organization of government is similar except that in most there is no equivalent to the Senate.
The provinces have authority over the administration of justice. Thus each province has its own court system and prosecutors. The criminal courts are similar in each province with a Provincial Court which tries 'summary conviction' offenses (misdemeanors), and some lesser indictable offenses (felonies). This court also conducts preliminary hearings of indictable offenses. There are no jury trials in a Provincial Court. The Superior Courts try indictable offenses with or without a jury (at the discretion of the accused). Each province has a Court of Appeal, however, the full court of appeal for the country is the Supreme Court of Canada.
All judges are appointed and hold office until retirement age conditional only 'on good behaviour'. Provincial Court judges are appointed by the provincial cabinet. Other judges are appointed by the Federal Government.
Charges are preferred in the name of Her Majesty in the form 'Her Majesty the Queen (usually shortened to Regina) versus (the name of the accused)'. Prosecutions are conducted by Crown Attorneys appointed by the provincial cabinet. Their responsibility is to advise the police on legal matters and to present the case provided to them by the police. Crown Attorneys have no investigative function. Disclosure of the crown's case to the defense is mandatory.
Investigation of sudden or unexpected death is a provincial responsibility assigned to coroners or medical examiners depending on the province. Regardless of the name, most are medical doctors appointed by the provincial cabinet who serve an area on a fee for service basis. Except in the large centres and in Quebec, forensic pathology is practiced as a sideline by pathologists qualified in other branches of the specialty. Coroners can also require the police force in the jurisdiction of the death to assist with these investigations. Each province has at least one full time coroner or medical examiner who serves as the Chief and ensures proper training, management and record keeping.
In about 1% of cases when there is reason to ensure public disclosure of a public safety concern or some other matter, public inquests are held presided over either by the coroner or a provincial judge, with a jury of five citizens in some provinces. The main function of an inquest is to make recommendations that might prevent such deaths in the future.
Forensic Science - The Beginnings
When people (including most Canadians) think of Canada it is unlikely that the word "first" springs to mind. About the only discoveries that might be attributed to Canadians would be insulin and snowmobiles. Some other Canadian inventions that you may want to remember the next time you play Trivial Pursuit (a Canadian invention) are the gas mask, the electric organ, the paint roller, the pocket pack of Kleenex, frozen foods, the beer carton with the pop-up handle, and Standard Time.
In 1876, Alexander Graham Bell made the first long distance telephone call from his father's home in Brantford, Ontario to Paris - not the one in France - but Paris, Ontario, 5 miles away. The first commercial jet passenger plane was developed and flown in Toronto in 1949 but, in typical Canadian fashion, it was decided we couldn't afford it and produced jet fighters instead. The first commercial oil well in North America was developed near Sarnia, Ontario in 1857, two years before the first in Pennsylvania. Again, in typical Canadian style, we decided there was no need for two wells in North America and closed ours. The oil had a very high sulphur content which made it unpleasant to use in lamps, its commonest application in those days. However, an advertisement in the London (Ontario) Free Press in 1859 notified that:
"Professor Croft of Toronto after much labour has succeeded in deodorizing, the oil and rendering it useful as an article of commerce."
Professor Croft was also the first forensic chemist in Canada.
For forensic scientists however, the most significant Canadian first was the first government funded forensic science laboratory in North America (and one of the first anywhere) established in Montreal in July 1914. It will be described in more detail below.
The first use of science by the police and courts was the evidence of medical practitioners to assist in determining the cause of death. In Canada, the first such records involve Dr. William Dunlop. A graduate of the University of Edinburgh, Dunlop was a lecturer in Medical Jurisprudence there in the 1820s. After emigrating to Canada, he practiced his profession and established a formidable reputation which earned him the nickname "Tiger". He is remembered not for his practice of forensic medicine but rather for his last will which stated in part:
"I leave Parson Chavasse a small token of my gratitude for the service he has done my family in taking a sister no man of taste would have taken".
In April of 1859, Professor Henry Holmes Croft testified at the trial of Dr. William Henry King in Cobourg, Ontario that he found eleven grains of arsenic in the stomach of Mrs Sarah King. Dr. King was charged with the murder and was subsequently convicted and executed. This is the first record of the use of a science other than medicine in Canada that can be located.
Professor Croft was born in England in 1820 and received his education in the University of Berlin. In 1943, at the age of only 23, he was recommended by no less an authority than Michael Faraday to become the first Professor of Experimental Philosophy and Chemistry in King's College (now the University of Toronto). Croft's laboratory still exists as a round appendage to University College. The design and location was to prevent the transfer of odours to the main building. This was wise in view of the lack of refrigeration, the distance some specimens had to travel and Croft's penchant for working with well-seasoned evidence.
According to the book "Dr. King's Life, Trial, Confession and Execution, Together With the Journal, Prison Scenes and Portrait; Also The Causes Which Led Him To Commit The Awful Crime", Professor Croft testified that, after finding the arsenic in Mrs King's stomach he wrote to the coroner asking him to send Sarah's liver and kidneys since the arsenic might have been added to the stomach when it was displayed to the coroner's jury. Professor Croft also testified that he found little arsenic in the liver, certainly not sufficient to cause death. The jury apparently disagreed and convicted Dr. King. The book does not enlighten us as to whether Professor Croft learned anything about fallibility from this result but, as Dr. King was led up the gallows' steps, he confessed that he had indeed murdered his wife, but with morphine not arsenic.
Croft kept current with developments in science and in 1876 testified in a case of a husband charged with the stabbing death of his wife, that not only were some stains on a knife blood (using Van Deen's guaiacum test), but they were "blood from one who could nurse young", presumably a female. For reasons upon which we can only speculate, he did not testify to such a finding later in his career.
Professor Croft was succeeded by one of his students, Dr. William Hodgson Ellis, who had degrees in both chemistry and medicine. A record of his career in forensic science still exists in his laboratory notebook in the library of the Centre of Forensic Sciences. In a rape/murder case in 1878, in addition to the identification of blood, he testified to the significance of the number, size and position of bloodstains on the trousers of the accused man (i.e., bloodstain pattern interpretation). Ellis also introduced serological tests in 1904 only three years after their discovery by Uhlenhuth. He also made microscopic examinations of hair as early as 1897. Although he was a competent microscopist, nowhere in his notes is there any mention of examination for spermatozoa; also, nowhere is there any description of tests for alcohol even though Nicloux's method had been published in 1896. An interesting item found in his notebook is a newspaper clipping from the Rat Portage (now Kenora) News dated 19 May 1900. It describes a coroner's inquest into the death by morphine overdose of one Oliver Doyle. Mr Doyle is described as a heavy drinker who lived with a lady friend who was the proprietress' of a brothel. The story thus involved booze, sex and drugs - it could have been written just yesterday.
Professor Ellis retired in 1919 but not before he made what proved to be his most significant contribution to forensic science, persuading one of his students, L J Rogers, to take up this work in 1911. At his birth in the late 1880s on a small Ontario farm, his parents could not possibly have predicted the career he would eventually choose, yet they christened him Linneus Joslyn Rogers. Linneus, of course, after the great Swedish botanist; Joslyn was an old family name from a small Quaker like sect whose religious practice was based upon "giving witness". Linneus Joslyn was therefore "the scientist who gives witness", a most appropriate name for a forensic scientist.
Rogers completed his Master's thesis in 1910 on: "A Method for the Analysis of Chloral Hydrate in Tissue." He became Professor of Analytical Chemistry in the University of Toronto in 1914 and held that appointment until his retirement in 1954. Until 1967, he continued active practice in the Attorney General's Laboratory, his career thus spanned over half a century of some of the most significant developments in forensic science. Not only did he expand the scope of toxicological analysis, he also introduced blood alcohol analysis to the courts of Ontario in 1932 when he testified to finding alcohol in the stomach of a Gentleman who died after consuming some moonshine. The moonshiners were fined for having liquor in their possession "not purchased from a government vendor." Rogers developed many of the techniques used in the scientific investigation of fires, explosions. safe burglaries, hit and run automobile crashes and firearms identification.
The second forensic science laboratory in Canada (the first being the Medical-Legal Research Laboratory in Quebec) was established by the Attorney General of Ontario in 1932. Dr. Edgar Frankish, a pathologist, had studied under Dr. Wilfred Derome founder of the Quebec laboratory in 1926, and had established a small private medico-legal laboratory in Toronto. He was asked to become Director of the new Attorney General's Medico-Legal Laboratory located in part of an old house at 11Queen's Park Crescent. Dr. Frankish traveled the province performing autopsies while his technician, Miss Vada Vincent, remained in the laboratory doing tests for blood, semen, hairs, fibres and plant materials. Toxicology was done by Professor Rogers at the University. In 1941, Dr. Frankish became ill and the laboratory was left under the direction of a series of non-active Doctors while Miss Vincent continued to do the lab work until her retirement in 1950.
In 1951, the Attorney General decided to revitalize the Laboratory. Dr. Noble Sharpe was asked to head it but he recognized that forensic science was no longer just a medical science but covered a much broader range of sciences. He recommended that a scientist be Director. Dr. H Ward Smith, a pharmacologist. was recruited from the University of Toronto and the modem era of forensic science in Ontario began. Later that year, the laboratory moved from Queen's Park Crescent around the comer to what had been the Hospital for Sick Children. The 3.000 square feet of lab space seemed more than ample. Dr. Smith began to assemble around him a group of young scientists of varying backgrounds and the services offered began to expand. From the beginning, this laboratory operated on a specialist rather than a generalist basis.
By 1957, the staff of the Attorney General's Laboratory had increased from three to fourteen and the laboratory was moved into 11,000 square feet of redesigned space in what had been a liquor warehouse at 8 Jarvis Street. Although the building was shared with the headquarters of the Ontario Provincial Police, Dr. Smith insisted on maintaining a distinct identity by having a separate entrance and address and ensuring that laboratory reports were addressed to the Crown Attorney.
In 1966, the name was changed to the Centre of Forensic Sciences to enhance the appearance of independence from any prosecutorial authority. It is now a branch of the Ministry of the Solicitor General and Correctional Services. Dr. Smith died in 1967 and the author succeeded him. In 1975, the Centre moved into a 70,000 square foot facility at 25 Grosvenor Street which it still occupies. The specialized sections of the laboratory are biology (including serology, hairs and fibres, plant materials and, since 1990, DNA analysis), chemistry (including trace evidence, flammables and explosives, GSR, soil, electronics, engineering and casino quality control), documents and photography, firearms and toolmarks, and toxicology (including police breath test quality control).
In 1992, a 16,000 square foot Northern Regional Laboratory was established in a new government building in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. Its 13 member staff provides all services except documents and DNA to the vast reaches of Northern Ontario.
The Centre and its regional lab have a total staff of about 140 civilians who provide services to all law enforcement agencies, coroners and other investigators in the province. As with the other Canadian labs, services are provided at no direct cost to the users.