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USW Statement: Stay of Proceedings in Case of Workplace Death of Sam Fitzpatrick

BURNABY, B.C. – The United Steelworkers union (USW) District 3 is extremely disappointed with the announcement from the BC Prosecution Service (BCPS) that a stay of proceedings has been entered in the case against Peter Kiewit Sons and two of the construction company’s managers in the 2009 death of 24-year-old worker Sam Fitzpatrick.

Fitzpatrick was crushed by a falling boulder on a hydroelectric project near Toba Inlet, north of Powell River, B.C. At the time, a WorkSafeBC investigation found a “reckless disregard” for safety on the project. Just one day before the fatal rockfall, another boulder had tumbled down the same slope, causing serious damage to a piece of heavy equipment.

After the conclusion of the WorkSafeBC proceedings in 2013, police initiated a criminal investigation in 2014. Charges were approved on May 31, 2019, and the matter was set for trial commencing on Sept. 7, 2021. BCPS now says it has determined that the available evidence no longer satisfies the charge assessment and the charges have been stayed. The trial will not proceed.

“We are extremely disappointed in the decision from the BC Prosecution Service not to prosecute the case,” said Stephen Hunt, USW District Director for Western Canada and the Territories. “Sam Fitzpatrick died more than a decade ago and criminal charges were only laid in 2019 after a long campaign for accountability led by Fitzpatrick's friends, family and our union.”

Hunt heralded the work of Sam’s late father Brian Fitzpatrick in seeking justice for his son and family.

“Brian came to us looking for help. He was totally committed and had the best reason in the world to fight for justice, not only for Sam but for all workers. He came to our union although neither he nor his son were USW members. We agreed with Brian that Sam was killed by corporate negligence and the deliberate actions and reckless decisions put workers at risk, and no one was being held accountable,” Hunt said.

“Sam and the Fitzpatrick family deserved justice. Every worker deserves the right to go to work, be safe and come home to their families at the end of the day. Sam did not have that chance and he was taken away from the world far too early,” he added.

“We will not give up our fight for Sam or the thousands of workers who die on the job due to employer negligence. We will continue pushing forward with our Stop the Killing, Enforce the Law campaign until every worker can come home safe,” said Hunt.

“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 the 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 marked the 29th anniversary of the tragedy. Meanwhile, up to 1,000 workers are killed every year across Canada.

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For further information:

Stephen Hunt, USW District 3 Director, 604-816-2554, shunt@usw.ca

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