Annual Day of Mourning

New Democrats marked the annual Day of Mourning by introducing a bill to the B.C. legislature that would ensure companies are held accountable for workplace deaths.

“This bill would see corporate executives and directors held accountable for cases of negligence causing workplace death or serious injury,” said New Democrat labour critic Harry Bains Monday in the legislature when introducing the bill.

Bains said stronger legislation is necessary in B.C., because there has been a failure to secure a single criminal charge for any company despite many workplace deaths as a result of negligence.

“In 2004, 12 years after a mining disaster that took the lives of 26 miners, the federal government enacted the Westray Bill which allowed for employers and managers to be criminally charged for workplace deaths,” said Bains. “There have been more than 1,350 deaths in British Columbia since the Westray bill was passed, and yet no prosecutions have yet been made to hold employers or managers criminally accountable for unsafe working conditions.”

The Workplace Accountability Act would:

  • Ensure a Crown Prosecutor is dedicated and trained to deal with workplace fatality and serious injury cases so the likelihood of conviction may be determined more accurately.
  • Ensure both police and Worksafe BC inspectors are trained on section 217.1 of the Criminal Code. This would ensure that these parties understand this law and its application and would in turn lead to better collection of evidence to support Crown Counsel’s decision making.
  • Require mandatory police investigations of all workplace fatalities and serious injury cases, in order to determine whether criminal negligence exists.
  • Call for the Crown and police to develop a specialized prosecution policy for workplace fatalities or serious injuries cases, similar to what is done in domestic violence cases.

“Far too often, companies are given a slap on the wrist for their negligence and no justice is given to the victims or their families,” said Bains. “The Babine and Lakeland sawmill explosions killed four people and seriously injured 42 others, yet no one has been held accountable. Passing this bill would show that this government is ready to do something to bring about justice in such cases.”