The question begs to be asked after Monday’s sentencing of Vale Canada Ltd. to $1 million in fines in the April 2014 death of Paul Rochette: Was justice served? The family of the 36-year-old millwright doesn’t think so. Nor does the man injured while working with Rochette to free a large metal pin from the jaws of an ore crusher at the Copper Cliff Smelter Complex.
Their efforts went tragically wrong when the pin let go and flew off, killing Rochette and seriously injuring millwright Justin Stewart, then 28. Stewart’s name had not been made public, at his request, until he appeared in the Ontario Court of Justice and read a victim impact statement. His injuries were always characterized by Vale as “facial lacerations.”
One look at Stewart tells you it was far more serious than that. He remained in hospital 11 days, was off work six months and to this day cannot remember what occurred near the No. 87 conveyor.
Stewart and members of Paul Rochette’s family left the courthouse feeling hurt, angry and frustrated because they believe the Brazil-based behemoth got off with a slap on the wrist.
The company was facing nine charges under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, each of which could have resulted in a maximum penalty of $500,000. Three Vale supervisors faced eight charges, with a maximum individual fine per conviction of $25,000.
In a deal worked out between the Ministry of Labour and Vale, the company pleaded guilty to four counts. It was fined $425,000 each on two of them and $75,000 each on two. That was just slightly less than the $1,050,000 Vale was fined after pleading guilty to three of nine charges in September 2013 in the June 8, 2011 deaths at Stobie Mine of Jason Chenier and Jordan Fram. At the time, it was the largest fine levied against a company for convictions under the OHSA.
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