Canada: Deux décisions rendues en appel en matière de sst à connaître

Last Updated: June 11 2018
Article by Norm Keith

Deux décisions récentes rendues en appel concernant des poursuites importantes en matière de santé et de sécurité au travail (« SST ») doivent être connues de tous les professionnels de la santé et sécurité au travail et des ressources humaines, les conseillers juridiques en entreprise et les cadres responsables de la mise en Suvre des systèmes de gestion de la santé et la sécurité.

La première est la décision en appel de la poursuite intentée contre Sunrise Propane Energy Group (« Sunrise »). Sunrise a été reconnue coupable au terme d'un procès de 14 jours à l'égard de sept chefs d'accusation en vertu de la Loi sur la protection de l'environnement et de la Loi sur la santé et la sécurité au travail toutes deux de l'Ontario. Le juge Akhtar de la Cour supérieure de justice a conclu que la déclaration de culpabilité et la peine en première instance reposaient sur des éléments de preuve et des principes juridiques raisonnables et il les a par conséquent confirmées. Le tribunal a statué que l'explosion et l'incendie ayant causé un décès au centre de distribution de Sunrise Propane Energy Group au nord-est du Grand Toronto ont donné lieu aux contraventions à la Loi sur la protection de l'environnement et à la Loi sur la santé et la sécurité au travail.

En ce qui concerne l'appel interjeté à l'égard de la peine, la lourde double peine totalisant 5,3 M$ a également été maintenue par la Cour supérieure de justice. Confirmant les amendes et les peines, le tribunal a déclaré [TRADUCTION] qu'« il est clair que le tribunal d'appel doit manifester une retenue considérable à l'égard d'une peine imposée par un juge de première instance et doit seulement intervenir si cette peine est manifestement inadéquate (...) les dommages et les répercussions étendus causés par le comportement imprudent de l'appelant au moment d'effectuer le transfert de camion à camion sans permis et en pleine connaissance des risques associés à la pratique (...) rien n'indique une erreur dans la décision du juge de première instance et je suis d'accord avec l'intimée à l'égard du fait que l'amende est cohérente avec d'autres causes impliquant des décès »1.

Clairement, les facteurs aggravants que sont un décès ainsi que l'exploitation sans permis et de façon non sécuritaire constituaient des éléments importants qui ont entraîné la lourde peine imposée par le tribunal de première instance et qui a été maintenue en appel.

Le deuxième appel qu'il faut connaître a trait à la tragédie du carnage criminel ayant eu lieu à Moncton, au Nouveau-Brunswick, lors duquel quatre agents de la GRC ont été tués alors qu'ils étaient ciblés par le tireur Justin Bourque. Après la tragédie, l'organisme de réglementation fédéral en santé et sécurité au travail a fait enquête et a déposé des accusations en vertu de la partie II du Code canadien du travail. La Gendarmerie royale du Canada a présenté une défense aux accusations dans le cadre du procès, mais a été reconnue coupable. La GRC a été condamnée à payer 550 000 $ des suites de la fusillade pour avoir omis de correctement armer et former ses membres. Le juge Leslie Jackson a prononcé le verdict à Moncton, au Nouveau-Brunswick, dans une salle d'audience pleine où se trouvait Daniel Dubeau, commissaire de la GRC. Le juge de première instance a répondu clairement et fermement au manque de leadership de la GRC de ne pas avoir agi plus tôt pour veiller à ce que les policiers de première ligne soient équipés de fusils de haut calibre qui auraient possiblement fait une différence lors de la fusillade meurtrière de Justin Bourque.

Les motifs cinglants du jugement sur la détermination de la peine ont surtout placé la responsabilité des actions criminelles ayant mené à la tragédie sur la haute direction de la GRC plutôt que sur les actions criminelles de Bourque. La GRC a été critiquée pour ne pas avoir fourni de « puissance de tir » adéquate aux agents de la GRC afin qu'ils puissent répondre à cet événement imprévisible. Le juge de première instance a reconnu que la GRC avait agi à l'égard de 56 des 64 recommandations du rapport sur l'incident, mais que ce n'était pas nécessairement suffisant pour convaincre le procureur ou le tribunal qu'il n'y avait pas eu une série de graves violations en matière de santé et sécurité en vertu du Code canadien du travail.

Récemment, la GRC a annoncé qu'elle ne porterait pas cette déclaration de culpabilité en appel, même s'il est probable que ce jugement ait été difficile à avaler pour celle-ci. La majeure partie de la pénalité imposée à la GRC, soit 300 000 $, sera affectée à une bourse d'études commémorative à l'Université de Moncton, alors qu'un autre 600 000 $ sera affecté à un fonds d'études pour les enfants des agents de la GRC mortellement blessés. Ces « peines de substitution », par opposition aux revenus provenant des peines, qui sont versées au fonds d'administration générale du gouvernement sont permises dans certains territoires de compétence, comme le régime fédéral, mais pas dans d'autres, comme la province de l'Ontario.

Ces deux affaires reflètent le fait que, dans les causes extrêmes et inhabituelles dans lesquelles les travailleurs subissent des blessures graves ou mortelles, les autorités de réglementation en santé et sécurité à l'échelle du Canada appliquent la législation plus vigoureusement. Ces décisions indiquent également que des sanctions pécuniaires élevées peuvent être imposées lorsque les lois sur la santé et la sécurité ne sont pas respectées, même si la tragédie ultimement survenue n'était pas envisagée ni facilement prévisible et sans aucun doute accidentelle.

  Footnote

1   R. v. Sunrise Propane Energy Group, 2017 ONSC 6954 (en anglais).

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