On a day set aside to remember workers killed on the job, a grieving father said the death of his son at an Ottawa construction site has left a "big hole" in his family, and called for stiffer punishment for companies that neglect workplace safety.
Christian Bruneau's 24-year-old son Olivier died after a chunk of ice fell and struck him in a condominium construction pit on Preston Street on March 23.
"Olivier was a happy man with a passion for his work. He was very active in the family. Always the first to offer help," Bruneau told a crowd of hundreds gathered at Vincent Massey Park for the annual National Day of Mourning ceremony for workers killed or injured on the job.
Bruneau chose the event to speak publicly about his son's death for the first time to highlight the issue of workplace safety.
Bruneau's family 'forever devastated'
"Every worker in the industry has the right to assume that he will go back home at the end of the day and look after his loved ones. This is a right," he said. "That right was compromised when the workplace was not safe. Olivier did not come back home on [March] 23rd, and the life of his family was forever devastated."
Olivier Bruneau was an employee of Bellai Brothers Construction Ltd., working on the Claridge Homes development at 505 Preston Street. He was taking measurements for the building's foundation when he died, his father said today.
The Ministry of Labour is investigating Olivier's death, but Bruneau said the family hasn't heard anything about where the investigation currently stands. That's left him with more questions than answers.
"Why was it decided to stop removing the ice from the walls? Was the decision to stop removing the ice based on the cost? On the prospect of bigger bonus, bigger profit?" Bruneau put to the crowd.
Family wants criminal investigation
Bruneau said he believes police should open separate criminal investigations into workplace deaths to make companies more accountable, and safety a priority.
"I appeal to the minister of labour and the Ottawa police force to turn every rock at that site and find all of the evidence that will bring clarity to this situation," he said. "Safety starts at the top of the corporation."
Following the ceremony, Bruneau said at the time of his son's death, the family was already making plans for the summer. Now, they have to carry on without him.
"He will be missed immensely. So that will leave a big hole in our family that will never be filled. Can't be replaced. So I'm doing this for the workers so that they get safer working conditions in the future."