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Ontario’s Ministry of Labour charged with criminal negligence causing death in Sudbury, Ont., mining fatality

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Ontario’s Ministry of Labour and one of its employees have been charged with criminal negligence causing death in connection with a 2006 mining fatality in the Sudbury area.

Raymond Campeau was 47 when he died underground at Podolsky Mine in Capreol while working as a mechanic for Dynatec Corp.

The charges are a private prosecution brought by his widow, Faye Smith. According to court documents obtained by NorthernOntario.CTVNews.ca, a justice of the peace in Sudbury ruled in March that there were grounds to proceed with the charges.

A court date has been set for June 26 in the Ontario Court of Justice in Sudbury. A summons to appear has been issued for the Ministry of Labour, Dan Beaulieu, who worked for the ministry at the time, Dynatec Corp., Chris Stewart, Terry Jibbs and Stylianos Kontonikolas.

All have been charged with criminal negligence causing death under Section 220 (B) of the Criminal Code of Canada.

Campeau was working 2,000 feet underground at Podolsky Mine on May 25, 2006, when a winch he was trying to repair exploded, sending metal fragments flying at high speed. Campeau's legs were badly damaged and he died 90 minutes later. An inquest into his death was held in 2008.

His widow sued the province in 2018, arguing the Ministry of Labour inspector had identified the winch as a significant safety hazard and issued orders that the problems be rectified, but failed to follow through.

"A coroner’s inquest was held," said the court decision from the lawsuit.

"The coroner determined that Mr. Campeau’s death was caused by equipment failure – that the winch failed because required engineered tie-offs had not been installed to secure it."

She was initially awarded $2.1 million, but the sides later reached a settlement.

In response to a request from CTV News, the Ministry of Labour declined to comment on the charges.

“As this matter is before the court, the ministry is unable to comment,” a spokesperson said in an email.

Dynatec was acquired by Sherritt in 2007. Requests to Sherritt for comment on the case from CTV News have not yet been returned.

Private prosecutions

Criminal lawyer Ari Goldkind said in an interview Wednesday that while not as well known, private prosecutions are not uncommon in Ontario.

“In any busy jurisdiction throughout Ontario or Canada, there are a number of private prosecutions every week,” Goldkind said.

“For example, in southern Ontario, there are courts devoted on certain days to private prosecutions.”

In most cases, police decide whether to lay criminal charges and send the case to the Crown. But when police decide not to proceed, Goldkind said anyone can petition the court to move forward with charges.

“So a person can literally -- and I do mean this literally -- walk into their local courthouse, meet with a justice of the peace and begin what's called the private prosecution,” he said.

“If there is a basis for that justice of the peace to believe there's been a breach or an offence, that prosecution can actually begin (even) absent the involvement of the police charging somebody.”

Westray Law

In this case, the criminal charges against the Ministry of Labour are possible thanks to what’s known as the Westray Law.

Passed in 2004, it allows corporations and other organizations to be charged criminally in cases when, for example, a company may have breached its responsibility to ensure the safety of their employees.

“That duty of care (can be) making sure an employment site doesn't blow up, making sure machinery is safe, making sure that if something is tagged for repair, it actually gets to be repaired before workers come in the next day,” Goldkind said.

“So while the Criminal Code uses the word ‘person,’ in which we usually think of in terms of an individual, these amendments made it much easier and more broader to bring (charges against) the organization or company in charge.”

In terms of who would prosecute a case such as Campeau’s, Goldkind said it could be Crown prosecutors from Ontario or an outside prosecutor could be brought in.

And if there are convictions, Goldkind said, obviously, a company or ministry can’t be sent to jail.

“But there are a number of very serious penalties, fines, probations, things that really are trying to address the behaviour (and) ensure that the behaviour doesn't continue,” he said.

“So even though there's no jailhouse door for a corporation or the Ministry of Labour, there could be very, very serious additional consequences to such a (guilty) finding.”

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