Justice Denied in Olivier Bruneau’s Death

OTTAWA – The United Steelworkers (USW) union joins the family of Olivier Bruneau in condemning the decision by Ottawa police to close the investigation into the construction worker’s death and rule out criminal charges.

“We support Olivier Bruneau’s grieving parents who are in disbelief and feel betrayed by this decision. Justice has been denied to Olivier Bruneau and his family,” said USW National Director Ken Neumann.

Olivier Bruneau died on March 23, 2016, after he was crushed by a massive block of ice at a Claridge Homes construction site. He was employed by a contractor, Bellai Brothers Construction Ltd. The two companies were fined $325,000 each after admitting to violating Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety Act.

Bruneau’s family, the USW and other supporters publicly called for a criminal investigation into the death. They cited Criminal Code provisions, known as the Westray Law, that allow for the prosecution of corporations, their directors and supervisors found to have placed workers’ safety at risk.

A criminal investigation was launched by Ottawa police. The Bruneau family and the USW were shocked to learn today that the Ottawa Police Service has closed its investigation and determined it has “no evidence” to pursue criminal charges.

Former Ottawa police Chief Charles Bordeleau, who was in charge of the criminal investigation until his retirement in May 2019, cited difficulty for police in collecting evidence – including from witnesses and on-site physical evidence – as well as difficulty in co-ordinating their investigation with the Ministry of Labour.

Investigation of workplace fatalities is “a fairly new area for police services,” Bordeleau said in a media interview.

“This statement is a stunning example of the failure in the system and an acknowledgement of the critical need we have cited for many years for greater training of police officers and Crown prosecutors to ensure the Westray Law is properly enforced,” said Marty Warren, USW Director for Ontario and Atlantic Canada.

The USW is leading an ongoing campaign – Stop The Killing, Enforce the Law – for enforcement of the Westray Law, which was passed unanimously by the House of Commons and became law in 2004. The USW and its allies lobbied relentlessly for the Criminal Code amendments following the 1992 explosion at the Westray Mine in Nova Scotia that killed 26 miners.

“It has been demonstrated, over and over, that simply imposing fines for health and safety violations does not hold corporations accountable for workers’ deaths,” Warren said.

“The failure to enforce the Westray Law continues to deny justice to too many families across Canada who have lost loved ones due to workplace deaths, including the family of Olivier Bruneau.”


For further information:

Ken Neumann, USW National Director, 416-544-5951
Marty Warren, USW Ontario/Atlantic Director, 416-243-8792
Sylvia Boyce, USW Ontario/Atlantic Health, Safety and Environment Coordinator, 905-741-9830, sboyce@usw.ca
Bob Gallagher, USW Communications, 416-434-2221, bgallagher@usw.ca

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