Westray Law Should Have Applied in New Brunswick Fatality, Say Steelworkers

TORONTO – United Steelworkers (USW) National Director Ken Neumann says the union stands in solidarity with the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) and that the 2019 death of CUPE member Jimmy Martin should have been investigated, charged and prosecuted under the 2004 Criminal Code amendments known as the Westray Law.

“This worker and his family have been let down by the courts, which fined the New Brunswick Department of Transportation a measly $125,000 for an incident that was preventable and possibly criminal,” said Neumann.

Martin was killed in Woodstock, N.B., where railings on a job site were held together with plastic zip ties and wire, and could not protect workers from falling. In August 2019, Martin was working on the site and fell through the railing. He was 64 years old. 

“This was negligence on the part of the employer,” said Neumann. “It should have been treated as a crime before any other government agency stepped in. It is wrong that a government department should be protected – not prosecuted – by another provincial department. Justice has not been served in this case.”

The USW has for years been calling on law enforcement and prosecutors to enforce the Westray Law, amendments passed unanimously by the House of Commons 17 years ago. It came to pass more than a decade after the deaths of 26 miners at the Westray Coal mine in Nova Scotia.

USW’s national campaign, Stop The Killing, Enforce the Law, has received endorsement from municipalities across Canada. The campaign’s central goals are that:

  • Crown attorneys be educated, trained and directed to apply the Westray amendments;
  • Dedicated prosecutors be given the responsibility for health and safety fatalities; 
  • Police be educated, trained and directed to apply the Westray amendments; 
  • There be greater co-ordination 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.

USW Ontario/Atlantic Director Marty Warren added: “This is not too much to ask. We want workers and their families to be provided with the justice they deserve. A fine is not justice. It is permission to repeat the offence of an unsafe workplace.”


For further information:

Ken Neumann, USW National Director, 416-544-5951
Marty Warren, USW Ontario/Atlantic Director, 416-243-8792
Bob Gallagher, USW Communications, 416-544-5966, 416-434-2221, bgallagher@usw.ca

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