Ontario Centre of Forensic Sciences
25 Morton Shulman Ave.Toronto, Ontario, Canada
The Centre of Forensic Sciences (CFS) is a laboratory providing forensic science services to law enforcement agencies in Ontario, Canada. It is part of the government of Ontario Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services public safety division.
The majority of CFS cases deal with Criminal Code offences but other enforcement areas related to environment, conservation, hazardous materials, and public transit have also submitted samples. The CFS may also provide specialized forensic services on a fee basis to other non-law enforcement parties, such as a non-criminal case lawyer or medical doctor. This decision rests with the director of the CFS.
Scientists and technologists from the CFS also provide expert testimony in courts of law and tribunals, research and development, and client education and training.
The Centre of Forensic Sciences is one of the most extensive forensic science facilities in North America. The central laboratory is located in Toronto, in the Forensic Services and Coroner's Complex.
The laboratory conducts scientific investigations in cases involving injury or death in unusual circumstances and in crimes against persons or property. Highly specialized forensic examination and analysis are conducted in the following areas:
- firearms and toolmarks, and
The Centre of Forensic Sciences Toronto laboratory is the single largest forensic laboratory in Canada. The other full-service forensic laboratories in Canada are the multiple Royal Canadian Mounted Police Forensic Laboratory Services laboratories and Quebec’s Laboratoire de Sciences Judiciaires et de Médecine Légale in Montreal. The Toronto location of CFS has approximately 260 personnel and the NRL has approximately 22 personnel.
Founding of the Centre of Forensic Sciences
The roots of the Centre are in the creation of the Attorney General's Laboratory in 1951. The first home was at an old mansion at 11 Queen's Park Crescent and then moved to the old Victoria Hospital for Sick Children at College and Elizabeth Streets. It was renamed the Centre of Forensic Sciences in 1966, transferred to the new Ministry of the Solicitor General in 1972 and again to the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services in 2002. The Northern Regional Laboratory was opened in 1992 to serve Northern Ontario.
By 1957, the laboratory had 17 staff and overcrowding again necessitated a move to the LCBO warehouse 8 Jarvis Street in Toronto. Demand for forensic services continued to grow strongly and specialization had become formalized into organizational sections. These included biology, pathology, toxicology, physical chemistry and documents. A firearms section was created in 1958 making the Attorney-General’s Laboratory a full-service forensic laboratory. Soil examinations were added under the Chemistry Section by 1962.
In 1966, the laboratory was renamed The Centre of Forensic Sciences, and Lucas was made the new Director. By 1968, staff had risen to 75 personnel. The 1970s brought many new aspects to the CFS duties with the addition of a forensic engineer and certain types of electronic evidence being added to the chemistry discipline. This decade also saw the advent of the computer and other electronic equipment that would revolutionize the way the laboratory worked. The forensic pathology unit was separated from CFS in 1972. However the CFS was again outgrowing its warehouse location on Jarvis St. and sweeping plans for a new laboratory space were started. In 1975 the CFS moved to 25 Grosvenor Street and had a staff of 95. The multiple floors of the 25 Grosvenor Street location gave the CFS space to expand and add the Dr. H. Ward Smith Memorial Library. The CFS is now located at 25 Morton Shulman Avenue in North York.
The NRL was mandated by the Ontario Government in 1986 and became operational in 1992 at Roberta Bondar Place in Sault Ste. Marie. The NRL was started with a staff of 13 personnel under Lab Manager John Wells. The NRL serves areas north and west of Sudbury.
The analysis of DNA started in the CFS in 1990 continues to evolve and expand tremendously as it is the most important advance in forensic science to date. The CFS has also engineered workflow processes to handle the rapid growth of DNA cases. The CFS added an illegal gaming unit within the Chemistry Section in 1993 to add to the evolving electronics and digital evidence functions already being performed within the Chemistry Section.
In 1994, Mr. Lucas retired and George Cimbura became director. In 1996, Dr. Ray Prime took over the position of Director. This year also saw the non-management members on strike for 6 weeks as part Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) strike against Ontario government policies. During the 1990s a series of events including the Kaufman Commission of Inquiry (1996) regarding the wrongful conviction of Guy Paul Morin, and the Campbell Inquiry (1999) regarding Paul Bernardo highlighted problems of case backlog, inadequate training and investigator communication to CFS. In 1999 the CFS adopted a computer network Laboratory Information Management System to better track and manage case flow through the laboratory.
The inquiries, and the Askov decision (dismissed charges from unreasonable delay in awaiting crown preparation for trial), in the 1990s led CFS to receive increased staffing and reorganize to improve the speed and quality of forensic services. CFS had to restrict its case acceptance criteria for some types of analysis due to the case backlog. By 2001 staff was over 240 personnel. The gaming unit, and digital evidence analysis, would leave the Chemistry Section in 2000 to form a separate Electronics Section. CFS union members were again on strike with the larger OPSEU union for 8 weeks in 2002 although many personnel were ruled to be essential and so were required to report to the workplace. In another reorganization, the Casino (gaming) unit of the Electronics Section was transferred to the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario in 2005.
Currently, the CFS is growing and reaching out to develop better working relationships with target client groups. Workload for the CFS is currently regularly over ten thousand cases per year. The majority of the growth has been in the DNA area due to the exceptional strength of this evidence, the lowering of detection limits and the expansion of testing to more crime types. Some notable recent service improvements are; DNA analysis has been extended to new offence categories such as Break and Enter, additional trace explosives capabilities, scientific support to the Ontario Provincial Police Provincial Emergency Response Team in CBRN (Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear) and improved support for unknown materials identification by police field instrumentation. CFS has also performed some groundbreaking work and safety training of police regarding organic peroxide explosives. CFS is again facing increasing scrutiny from the 2007 Auditor General of Ontario report and Goudge Inquiry about the turn-around time in processing forensic cases.
Areas of analysis
Inquires and other governmental recommendations
The Kaufman Commission of Inquiry
The Kaufman Inquiry was ordered by the Ontario Government to investigate and make recommendations regarding the wrongful conviction of Guy Paul Morin in the murder of Christine Jessop in 1984. A substantial portion of the arrest warrant and prosecution case against Mr. Morin relied on hair and fibre evidence supplied by CFS. Additionally it came to light that CFS had inadequate tracking of evidence being processed through the lab. Problems were also exposed regarding inappropriate police communications between police and forensic scientists. Mr. Morin was exonerated by DNA evidence in 1995. The Kaufman Inquiry resulted in 119 recommendations of which a number applied to the role of CFS.
The impact of the Kaufman Inquiry on the CFS has been significant. One of the manifestations was the creation of the CFS Quality Unit in 1996. This unit is part of a through system to ensure the accuracy and relevance of the evidence it produces. Communications between lab personnel and investigators is now regulated and documented. There was also a continuing commitment from the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services to fund relatively high levels of training for the CFS scientific personnel.
The Campbell Inquiry
The Campbell Inquiry in 1999 looked into the police and justice system failings around the Paul Bernardo case. As a sexual assault suspect, Bernardo was sampled for DNA comparison to case evidence by Metro Toronto Police in November 1990 but the sample was not analyzed by CFS until December 1992. During this time Bernardo had moved to another region and committed four additional sexual assaults and two sadistic sexual murders. As a result of the inquiry CFS received additional resources and impetus to improve DNA analysis turn-around times.
2007 Annual Report of the Office of the Auditor General of Ontario
Chapter 3 of the 2007 annual Auditor General’s report dealt with the Centre of Forensic Sciences. Specifically, it made observations and recommendations about CFS turn-around time performance and efficiency. The report made 5 recommendations regarding; improving case turn-around times, consulting clients about turn-around targets, tracking effects of urgent cases, analysis of causes for longer than target turn-around times, and tracking efficiency in dollars and inter-laboratory comparisons.
The Inquiry into Pediatric Forensic Pathology in Ontario (Goudge Inquiry)
The Goudge Inquiry was initiated to look at the work of Dr. Charles Smith, who erred in numerous pediatric forensic pathology cases through the 1990s. The inquiry also examined the system for forensic pathology in Ontario as a whole. Although this inquiry did not directly concern CFS there were several recommendations applicable to CFS. The Director of CFS, Dr. Ray Prime testified at the inquiry regarding CFS quality system and positive changes to the forensic lab stemming from the Kaufman Inquiry. The Inquiry recommended CFS to collaborate with the Office of the Chief Coroner to improve turn-around times for toxicology reports, which are usually prevalent in forensic pathology. Also, CFS is to collaborate with the Office of the Chief Coroner to better prioritize urgent forensic samples. The report also asked the Director of CFS (or delegate) to sit on a governing council to guide improvements in the work of the Office of the Chief Coroner and forensic pathology.
In 1993, the CFS became the first forensic laboratory in Canada to be accredited to an international set of standards. The accreditation process is an external and detailed check on CFS quality system to help ensure quality in the forensic evidence it produces. CFS first became accredited by the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors-Laboratory Accreditation Board (ASCLD/LAB). This accreditation is slated to continue until fall 2008 when CFS is applying for accreditation to an International Organization for Standardization (ISO) standard. The new standard for CFS is the ISO 17025 standard for testing and calibration laboratories (along with relevant supplemental standards). The ASCLD organization is also expected to provide this new accreditation service.
Locations and jurisdictions
The main location for the CFS is 25 Morton Shulman Ave. in Toronto. The state-of-the-art laboratory was completed in 2012, and currently houses the Office of the Chief Coroner, the Ontario Forensic Pathology Service and the Centre of Forensic Sciences. The building, built in a public-private partnership with Carillion Secure Solutions consortium, is 663,000 square feet and has the capacity for more than 2,500 autopsies and over 15,000 forensic science cases per year.
The facility has been built to, and will be maintained to, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold certification. LEED buildings focus on healthy indoor environments, reduced greenhouse gas emissions and efficient use of energy, water and other resources.
The NRL location is in Roberta Bondar Place at 500-70 Foster Drive in Sault Ste. Marie. It also has an auto examination area. The NRL serves areas north and west of Sudbury. Some exceptions are in far western Ontario, such as west of Dryden, which occasionally send cases to the RCMP Forensic Laboratory in Winnipeg, Manitoba.
CFS occasionally performs work for other governments or agencies such as the Department of National Defence (Canada), the Government of Bermuda, the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, and the U.S. state of Virginia (notably the post-execution DNA testing in a U.S. capital murder case State of Virginia vs. Roger Coleman).
The CFS and RCMP Forensic Laboratory Services have also worked cooperatively to utilize each other's expertise and instrumentation on training events and during occasional cases.
- "Centre of Forensic Sciences". Canadian Society of Forensic Science.
- The Development of Forensic Science in Ontario: The Role of the Forensic Science Laboratories of the Ministry of the Solicitor General. GOALS Newsletter (Government of Ontario Analytical Laboratories System), December 1992, Issue #9.
- R. V. Askov, 1990. 2 S.C.R. 1199 http://scc.lexum.umontreal.ca/en/1990/1990rcs2-1199/1990rcs2-1199.html
- Report of the Kaufman Commission on Proceedings Involving Guy Paul Morin, The Honourable Fred Kaufman, C.M., Q.C, 1998 http://www.attorneygeneral.jus.gov.on.ca/english/about/pubs/morin/
- Bernardo Investigation Review Summary, Report of Mr, Justice Archie Campbell, June 1996. http://www.cornwallinquiry.ca/en/hearings/exhibits/Wendy_Leaver/pdf/10_Campbell_Summary.pdf
- Maclean's, July 22, 1996, D'ARCY JENISH. http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.com/index.cfm?PgNm=TCE&Params=M1ARTM0010959
- 2007 Annual Report of the Office of the Auditor General of Ontario: Chapter 3.02 Centre of Forensic Sciences http://www.auditor.on.ca/en/reports_safety_en.htm
- "goudge inq-feb-13-08 - Vol. I".
- Inquiry into Pediatric Forensic Pathology in Ontario, The Honourable Stephen T. Goudge, Volume 3, Chapter 22, Conclusion and Consolidated Recommendations. http://www.goudgeinquiry.ca/