United Steelworkers Welcomes Criminal Charges Against Kiewit Construction in Death of Sam Fitzpatrick

VANCOUVER – The United Steelworkers (USW) welcomes criminal charges against Peter Kiewit Sons (Kiewit Construction) in the death of 24-year old Sam Fitzpatrick, who was killed on a Kiewit Construction site at Toba Inlet, B.C., in 2009.

Kiewit and two supervisors, Gerald Karjala and Timothy Rule, each face one count under Section 220(b) of the Criminal Code, for criminal negligence causing Sam’s death.

“Sam Fitzpatrick’s death is a textbook example of why the USW campaign is necessary,” said Stephen Hunt, USW Western Canada Director. “Sam and his 20-year-old brother Arlen were rock scalers at Kiewit Construction’s hydro project where they complained about work practices and the danger from rockfalls. Those warnings were disregarded.”

Despite a finding from the B.C. Workers’ Compensation Board that the actions of Kiewit were 'reckless’ and ‘grossly negligent,’ upon appeal the corporation only paid a $100,000 penalty.

Hunt heralded the work of Sam’s late father Brian Fitzpatrick.

“Brian was relentless in his quest for justice for Sam. He came to our union although neither he nor his son were USW members,” Hunt said. “He talked to everyone who would listen, to try and make them understand that Sam was killed by corporate negligence and deliberate actions and reckless decisions that put workers at risk, with no one held accountable. Today’s announcement of charges brings justice one step closer.”

“I didn’t feel alone anymore with the force of the USW fighting, not just for families who have lost their loved ones, but for the future of all workers who face unnecessary danger by negligent bosses,” Brian Fitzpatrick said in 2015.

“Charges such as this one point to the need for our Stop the Killing, Enforce the Law campaign to continue,” says Hunt. “As long as workers are vulnerable to the negligence of employers, this struggle goes on. We know we are making a difference and look forward to the day workers like Sam and his family no longer pay the price for corporations that pay lip service to safety and behave in a deliberately negligent and criminal way.”

The USW national campaign is focused on enforcing the Westray Law, passed unanimously by Parliament in 2003, amending the Criminal Code and aimed at holding corporations criminally accountable for workplace death and injury. Despite apparent political commitment, enforcement has been minimal. 

The law was named after the 1992 Westray Mine explosion in Nova Scotia that killed 26 miners. This year marks 27 years since that tragedy. Meanwhile, up to 1,000 workers are killed every year across Canada.

The USW campaign, along with a video featuring Brian Fitzpatrick can be found at www.stopthekilling.ca. The video also can be found on YouTube here.


For further information:

Stephen Hunt, USW District 3 Director, 604-816-2554
Jessie Uppal, USW Research and Public Policy, 604-220-0739, juppal@usw.ca

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