Canadian Company Fined For Criminal Negligence

Transpave is ordered to pay $110,000 in fines for a criminal negligence case involving the death of a worker that unions have described as a first in Canada.

ST-JEROME, Quebec (CP) -- A judge has ordered a Quebec company to pay $110,000 in fines for a criminal negligence case involving the death of a worker that unions have described as a first in Canada.
Quebec court Judge Paul Chevalier imposed the penalty on Monday against Transpave, a Quebec paving-stone manufacturer, for the death of worker Steve L'Ecuyer.
L'Ecuyer, 23, was killed in October 2005 when he was crushed by a machine that was used with an unplugged emergency safety device.
Andree Beaulieu, L'Ecuyer's mother, told reporters she was disappointed with the fine. She expected a penalty in the millions, not just $110,000.
It is believed to be the first criminal conviction and sentence for a company blamed for a worker's death since the Criminal Code was beefed up in 2004.
The law was changed to ease prosecutions against organizations after cases failed against mine managers in the Westray disaster that killed 26 Nova Scotia miners.
Transpave, based in St-Eustache, Que., northwest of Montreal, pleaded guilty in December to a count of criminal negligence.
In a statement released Monday, Transpave apologized to the L'Ecuyer family.
The criminal investigation against Transpave followed another by Quebec's worker health and safety commission that found an optic security system on the machinery was ''neutralized.''
The commission also found L'Ecuyer lacked the training to realize the danger he was in.
Chevalier mentioned in his ruling that neither employees or management was unaware the system was unplugged at the time of the accident.
The Quebec Federation of Labour denounced Monday's decision, saying the Crown botched the case by describing the company as exemplary in its health and safety record.
Federation president Michel Arsenault says workers have made a number of health and safety complaints against Transpave.
''For a good number of years, Transpave was a bad employer that didn't respect the safety and security of its employees,'' Arsenault said.
''It's a bit disappointing to see them walk away with a $110,000 fine.''
Arsenault says the union could appeal the ruling.
Transpave's lawyer, Claude Mageau, says the union's allegations about unsafe conditions are false.
Mageau said a safety commission employee testified that there were complaints but no convictions or fines.
''It goes against the evidence,'' Mageau said of the union's assertions. ''It's false accusations.''
Transpave says it spent more than $500,000 to bring its factories up to European safety standards, which are higher than the norms required in North America.
The company says it has spent more than $250,000 in other health and safety initiatives over the past two years.
In the Westray case, two mine managers faced criminal charges that were eventually stayed for lack of evidence.
Ensuing investigations found a myriad of safety violations, blatant disregard for worker safety and attempts to alter records.
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