Accent: Union, families feel criminal charges warranted through Westray provision
The silence was gut-wrenching in a Sudbury courtroom last year for the families of two men attending preliminary proceedings into charges in the deaths of their loved ones May 6, 2014 at Lockerby Mine.
The families of Norm Bisaillon and Marc Methe attended court after eight charges were laid against mine owner First Nickel Inc. and five were laid against Taurus Drilling Services by the Ministry of Labour.
Bisaillon, 49, and Methe, 34, were killed by a fall of ground at FNI’s Lockerby Mine, just hours after they contacted an FNI employee to discuss a concern about the area in which they were working, their families say.
Cleo Methe, Marc’s father, said it was upsetting at earlier proceedings that no representatives from now-defunct FNI were there to answer a call from the clerk to make their presence known to the court.
Those 13 charges under the Occupational Health and Safety Act are scheduled for trial in a Sudbury courtroom in late April and early May, an agonizing 36 months after the tragedy for the families. A trial confirmation hearing will be held Jan. 24.
If the loss of their precious loved ones wasn’t enough, the families don’t believe they will get justice for their deceased because they don’t think FNI representatives will be there to answer to the charges.
There is also a possibility the charges against the contractor could be handled in a plea bargain without going to trial. If that happens, the families may never hear details about how Marc and Norm died until a mandatory coroner’s inquest is held.
The Ministry of Labour can try companies “in absentia” or without representatives in court on OHSA charges, said ministry spokeswoman Janet Deline. But there can be no redress from a company that no longer exists.
Bisaillon and Methe, both experienced at their trade, were employed by contractor Taurus Drilling, which was hired by FNI for production mining at Lockerby.
The charges against FNI include failing to prevent the accumulation or flow of water, failing to ensure an effective ground support system was in place and failing the requirement that a written report be made of all dangerous workplace conditions.
Taurus was charged with not reporting misfiring or defective explosives to the ministry, failing to ensure safe ground condition programs were created and implemented, and failing to ensure proper communications about ground stability.
No individuals from either company were charged after the ministry’s year-long investigation into the tragedy.
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