The Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario has decided that it was not
discriminatory for the Coroner's Act to require
mandatory inquests in construction and mining deaths, but not in
Ned Peart, a migrant farm worker from Jamaica who came to Canada
under the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program ("SAWP"),
was crushed to death by a 1,000-pound tobacco bin that fell from a
steel bin lift. No inquest was held into Mr. Peart's death,
despite requests to the Office of the Chief Coroner by both migrant
farm worker advocates and the labour movement that consideration be
given to the plight of migrant farm workers.
In 2005, Mr. Peart's brother filed a complaint with the
Ontario Human Rights Commission, alleging that s. 10(5) of the
Coroners Act discriminates against migrant farm workers in
Ontario, and specifically those employed under SAWP, on the basis
that it denies them the benefit of a mandatory inquest into
workplace deaths, which currently is extended to workers in the
mining and construction industries.
The Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario found that SAWP workers are
at a significantly lower risk of traumatic workplace fatality than
those in the mining and construction industries. In addition, the
evidence revealed that there is much greater variance in the
mechanisms and circumstances that result in accidental workplace
deaths in the mining and construction industries than in the
agriculture industry. In fact, 41% of all fatalities in the
agriculture industry result from tractor roll-overs and tractor
run-overs. The Tribunal concluded that the greater variance of
accidental deaths in the mining and construction industries makes
it more likely that useful inquest recommendations will result from
these mandatory inquests than if inquests were required for all
workplace deaths in agriculture.
Therefore, the Tribunal held that the focus in s. 10(5) of the
Coroners Act on persons employed in the mining and
construction industries is a recognition of the greater degree of
risk of traumatic workplace fatalities that these groups face.
Notwithstanding the vulnerabilities experienced by SAWP workers,
the Tribunal ruled that their exclusion from the mandatory inquest
requirement under s. 10(5) of the Coroners Act does not
result in substantive inequality for this group when taking into
account the purposes and context of this provision.
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