OTTAWA – While Ministry of Labour charges against two Ottawa corporations for last year’s death of Olivier Bruneau are necessary, the United Steelworkers (USW) says criminal charges are more important if justice is to be served.
“We have been down this road before and we know Ministry of Labour charges are not enough to hold corporations criminally accountable for killing workers,” said Marty Warren, Ontario Director of the USW.
The union has an ongoing campaign for better enforcement of Criminal Code amendments, which were passed unanimously by the House of Commons and became law in 2004. Collectively, the amendments are known as the Westray Law. The USW campaign aims to Stop The Killing, Enforce the Law.
“2017 marks 25 years since the explosion that killed 26 miners at the Westray Mine in Nova Scotia – the worst Canadian industrial mass death in recent memory,” said Warren. “The Westray Law was intended to prevent more Westrays and deter employers from putting workers’ lives at risk. But over the last 13 years, companies are still getting away with practices that kill workers, at a rate of about 1,000 a year.”
Warren noted the Ministry of Labour had to make a decision on non-criminal charges within a year of Bruneau’s death on March 23, 2016.
“Police are under no such restrictions. The criminal investigation must continue.”
Bruneau was killed at a Claridge Homes construction site, contracted to Bellai Brothers Construction Ltd. Both corporations have been charged under the Occupational Health and Safety Act.
Less than two months after Bruneau was killed by falling ice, the City of Ottawa passed a motion supporting the USW campaign, which calls for:
- Education, training and direction for Crown attorneys to apply the Westray amendments;
- Dedicated prosecutors with the responsibility for health and safety fatalities;
- Education, training and direction for police to apply the Westray amendments in investigations of workplace incidents;
- Greater coordination among regulators, police and Crowns so that health and safety regulators are trained to reach out to police when there is a possibility that Westray amendment charges are warranted.
“Now the Ottawa Police Service has a chance to make these goals a reality,” said Warren. “Olivier Bruneau’s grieving family deserves nothing less.”
For further information:
Marty Warren, USW Ontario/Atlantic Director, 416-243-8792, firstname.lastname@example.org
Sylvia Boyce, USW Ontario/Atlantic Health, Safety and Environment Coordinator, 905-741-9830, email@example.com
Bob Gallagher, USW Communications, 416-544-5966, 416-434-2221, firstname.lastname@example.org