Hard feelings over Westray vote in Sudbury – by Laura Stricker (Sudbury Star – February 5, 2014)

The Sudbury Star is the City of Greater Sudbury’s daily newspaper.

A United Steelworkers campaign to hold employers criminally responsible for workplace deaths unfairly portrays them as bad guys, a local businessman has charged.

On Jan. 28, Sudbury city council heard from USW members on their movement to ‘Stop the Killing, Enforce the Law.’ It calls for police and Crown attorneys to charge executives and corporations criminally when workers are killed on the job.

At the same time, council passed a motion, presented by Joe Cimino, to support a campaign pushing the province to ensure police and the Crown are educated in and directed to apply the Westray amendments, named after the site of the 1992 mine explosion that killed 26 men.

“I fully support Westray. Absolutely, people should be held accountable for negligence and problems of that nature. I have no issue at all with the Westray Act,” Andre Dumais, who works in the mining supply sector, said Tuesday.

“My issue is with the name of the campaign, the Stop the Killing. To me it implies the employers in the mining companies, or any industrial companies for that matter, are actively trying to kill their employees.”

Bill C-45, the Westray Act, became law in 2004. Under the act any organization or manager – in any sector – can be charged under the Criminal Code of Canada if their negligence is found to have caused on-the-job deaths.

“If the campaign was called Stop the Dying or Stop the Damage or Injuries (that would be okay). But the word killing to me implies an active intent to try and kill employees, which is utter nonsense,” Dumais continued.

“When a manager is negligent in the discharge of (their) duties, the Criminal Code of Canada says that’s killing,” Steve Hunt, a USW director, countered. “They call it manslaughter, but in our society we don’t tolerate that type of activity, other than in the workplace, it seems. So, that’s what we’re trying to change.

“We think if our campaign works it will create the paradigm shift we need to allow the regulators, the police, Crowns, to use all the tools at their disposal to make a societal change in workplaces that is desperately needed.”

Dumais took council to task for not questioning the use of the word ‘killing.’

“There was no discussion … no one even once, for a second, brought up the negativity or the connotation of the particular slogan.

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