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Coroner to probe death of woman in border service custody

A woman holds a sign before a group of protesters delivered a petition seeking an inquiry into the death of Lucia Vega Jimenez to the Canadian Border Services Agency in Vancouver on Feb. 5, 2014.

Darryl Dyck/The Globe and Mail

The B.C. Coroners Service has called a public inquest into the death of a Mexican woman who died in December while in the custody of the Canada Border Services Agency in Vancouver.

Lucia Vega Jimenez, 42, was arrested in Vancouver on Dec. 1 after a fare and identity check by transit police revealed she was wanted by the CBSA on immigration matters. She was held in custody for three weeks, first at Alouette Correctional Centre and then at holding cells at Vancouver International Airport. She attempted to kill herself on Dec. 20 and died eight days later in hospital.

The inquest will start on Sept. 29 in Burnaby, the B.C. Coroners Service announced Tuesday.

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Presiding coroner Margaret Janzen and a jury will hear evidence from witnesses to determine facts surrounding the death.

Ms. Vega Jimenez's death sparked outrage among civil liberties and migrant advocacy groups, who called for more transparency from the CBSA. They demanded to know more about detainee conditions at CBSA facilities, including the level of care and supervision, and why Ms. Vega Jimenez's death was not made public until the media began reporting on it.

Barb McLintock, a spokeswoman for the B.C. Coroners Service, said it is usually the position of the service to call an inquest when someone in custody of the state dies of non-natural causes. She noted there was also considerable public interest in the case of Ms. Vega Jimenez.

Ms. McLintock also emphasized that the service is a fact-finding agency, not a fault-finding agency.

"Although, hopefully, this will do an excellent job in finding out the facts of the case, people who think that we can lay blame or responsibility on someone for this death are going to be disappointed because that's not our role or mandate," she said.

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Based in Vancouver, Andrea Woo is a general assignment reporter with a focus on multimedia journalism. More

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