Following a preliminary inquiry last April, a Montreal-area
construction contractor was committed for trial on charges of
manslaughter and criminal negligence causing death.
Initially he had been charged with criminal negligence only, but
on the basis of evidence led at the preliminary inquiry, the
manslaughter charge was added.
On April 3, 2012 in the Montreal borough of Lachine, an employee
of Excavation S. Fournier Inc. was accidentally buried in a
trench and died. He was found in the deepest part of the trench, at
a depth of 2.6 metres.
The contractor, Sylvain Fournier, who was on the construction
site at the time of the accident, was also partially buried. Rescue
workers had to shore up the trench to prevent its walls from
collapsing a second time before being able to extract the
The provincial health and safety board (Commission de la
santé et de la sécurité du travail or
"CSST") found that a number of provisions of the
Safety Code for the Construction Industry (the
"SCCI") had been breached:
the walls of the trench had not been shored up, as required by
excavated earth had been dumped directly on the rim of the
banks of the trench, whereas the SCCI requires that excavated
material be deposited at a minimum distance of 1.2 metres from the
In addition, the company had no prevention program or excavation
protocol, and the deceased worker had received no training.
The CSST issued a statement of offence under section 237 of the
Occupational Health and Safety Act on the grounds that the
employer had acted so as to seriously compromise the safety of its
workers when performing excavation work. The contractor pleaded
guilty to that offence, but contested the amount of the penalty
imposed, i.e. $57,293. That contestation is still pending.
Then, last April 21st, Quebec's construction
industry regulator, the Régie du bâtiment du
Québec, revoked the contractor's licence of the
construction company because of its guilty plea in respect of the
charge under s. 237 of the Act and also because, in the view of the
Régie, the head of the company was not able to establish
that he could carry on the activities of a contractor competently
and scrupulously, given his past conduct.
It should be noted that it was the breaches of the SCCI and the
plea of guilty pursuant to the statement of offence issued by the
CSST that in the main led to the manslaughter charge.
For in the view of the judge presiding over the preliminary
hearing, the manslaughter charge was justified, as the worker's
death resulted from the commission of illegal acts, namely the
various breaches of the SCCI.
This appears to be the first time in Quebec that a manslaughter
charge has been brought against a contractor following a
work-related accident resulting in death.
It will be interesting to see whether the Court renders a guilty
verdict against the contractor in this case.
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Russell v. Township of Georgian Bay provides a useful reminder of the fact that while municipal officials sometimes appear to hold all of the cards in disputes with home owners, that is not always the case.
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