In a recent decision, the Ontario Court of Appeal imposed
a fine of C$750,000 on an Ontario company, holding that the fine
was a "fit fine in the circumstances". The fine was
levied in a case where four workers fell to their deaths following
the collapse of a swing stage at a highrise construction site. The
fine, imposed on the workers' employer, Metron Construction
Corporation (Metron), represents nearly a four-fold increase from
the C$200,000 fine that had been issued by the trial judge in
Metron is the first Ontario corporation to be convicted for
criminal negligence under the Criminal Code, as amended by
Bill C-45, in a matter involving workplace health and safety.
On December 24, 2009, four of Metron's workers plunged to
their deaths after boarding a swing stage that collapsed from the
exterior of the 14th floor of a highrise construction site.
At trial, Metron pled guilty to one count of criminal negligence
causing death pursuant to sections 22.1(b), 217.1 and 219 of the
Criminal Code. Sections 22.1(b) and 217.1 were added to
the Criminal Code as part of the Bill C-45 amendments on
corporate criminal liability.
There is limited jurisprudence regarding these amendments to the
Criminal Code. As such, the trial judge relied on the
sentencing range developed in cases decided under the
Occupational Health and Safety Act to determine the
appropriate fine. The trial judge found that a fine of C$200,000
plus a Victim Fine Surcharge of 15% (C$30,000) was appropriate.
DECISION OF THE ONTARIO COURT OF APPEAL
The Court of Appeal found the sentence of C$200,000 to be
"manifestly unfit" and increased the fine against Metron
The Court of Appeal held that the trial judge's decision
failed to appreciate the high degree of moral blameworthiness and
gravity associated with a conviction for criminal negligence
causing death. The Court further held that the judge placed undue
weight on Metron's economic viability and ability to pay, which
is only one factor to consider in sentencing a corporation.
Furthermore, the Court held that a C$200,000 fine failed to
demonstrate the importance of worker safety and undermined the
intent and effectiveness of the Bill C-45 amendments to the
This decision emphasizes the importance of adhering to health
and safety requirements and illustrates the potential consequences
of failing to comply with the employer's obligations concerning
worker safety. This decision also demonstrates that, when a
corporation is liable for health and safety violations under the
Criminal Code, the corporation can expect to receive a
sentence in accordance with principles of sentencing applicable to
Criminal Code offences which may result in substantially
higher fines than imposed under provincial occupational health and
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