Premier meets with mining probe proponents – by Heidi Ulrichsen (Sudbury Northern Life – September 01, 2013)

Wynne ‘very compassionate’ to accident victim’s family

The premier took some time during her visit to Sudbury last week to meet with those pushing for a mining safety probe in Ontario.

Kathleen Wynne met Aug. 30 with Steelworkers Local 6500 president Rick Bertrand, as well as Wendy and Briana Fram, the mother and sister, respectively, of Jordan Fram, who died in 2011 along with Jason Chenier at Vale’s Stobie Mine.

The Fram family are part of the Mining Inquiry Needs Everyone’s Support (MINES) committee, which is pushing for a full inquiry into mining safety in the province. Steelworkers Local 6500, the union representing Vale workers, made the original recommendation for the mining inquiry in its 2012 report into Fram and Chenier’s deaths.

“It was wonderful to meet with her, share our story and tell her why we feel we need an inquiry into Ontario mines,” Briana said. “She was very compassionate and listened to our story.” The meeting with Wynne comes after a previous failed attempt to do just that by those who want a mining inquiry. The Steelworkers requested a meeting with the premier in May, but didn’t receive a response until late July, at which time Wynne turned down their request, referring the matter to Labour Minister Yasir Naqvi.

Steelworkers Local 6500 president Rick Bertrand was able to meet with Naqvi Aug. 15, while Wendy Fram has met in the past with both Naqvi and the previous labour minister, Linda Jeffrey.

This is the first time they’ve discussed the matter with the premier, though, Briana said.

While the MINES committee would still like a full inquiry, she said it looks like the province is leaning towards a review of mining safety instead, which would be less extensive.

“At this point we’re looking at practical ways to get answers,” Briana said. “Whether that’s an inquiry or a review, we’re not sure yet. But yes, it’s looking more towards a review.”

Naqvi has sent the MINES committee and the Steelworkers a proposal for what a mining review would entail, she said.

The Steelworkers are due to meet with Naqvi about the proposal Sept. 5.

While the contents of the mining review proposal are confidential, Briana said there are specific things her family wants.

This includes making mining inquest recommendations mandatory. She brings up the example of Clifford Bastien, who was killed in 1995 at Stobie Mine in a similar fashion to Fram and Chenier.

If the recommendations from the inquest into Bastien’s death had been implemented, “Jordan’s accident wouldn’t have happened,” Briana said.

She said the inquest into Fram and Chenier’s deaths won’t be held until a court case dealing with Occupational Health and Safety Act charges against Vale and supervisor Keith Birnie is concluded.

This court case, which is expected to last about three weeks, starts Oct. 21.

Bertrand was not immediately available for comment about the meeting with Wynne.

During a live chat with Wynne Aug. 30, Northern Life asked the premier about her meeting with the Steelworkers and MINES committee.

“I’ll be honest, there had been some confusion around a request that had come to meet with me earlier,” Wynne said.

“That hadn’t happened. I wanted to make sure they understand that I’m very concerned about this issue, and I want to make sure that we move ahead.”

She said she thinks there are changes that need to be made to mining safety practices.

“There hasn’t been a review of mining safety for many years, and that needs to happen,” Wynne said.

“The Minister of Labour, Yasir Naqvi, is engaged right now with the mining committee that has been calling for the inquiry.

“We’re going to move ahead, one way or another, in terms of getting people together, finding practical solutions and making changes.”