Compensation battle drags on, 15 years after Giant Mine blast
The families of nine men killed in the Giant Mine bombing of 1992 continue to wait for a legal battle to play itself out, perhaps all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada,before they can collect compensation.
The wrongful-death lawsuit, filed 13 years ago by the Workers' Compensation Board of the Northwest Territories and Nunavut on behalf of the miners' families, remains before the courts.
Next month, a Yellowknife court will hear appeals of the N.W.T. Supreme Court's2004 judgment, in which Justice Arthur Lutz ordered a number of defendants to pay $10.7 million in damages to the miners' widows. The results of those appeals could end up before Canada's highest court.
"The longer the case drags on through the courts, it continues to be front and centre in their lives. So I think that is difficult for them," lawyer Jeff Champion, who represents the victims' families, told CBC News.
"Most of the children at the time of the fatal blast are raised now."
At 8:45 a.m. MT on Sept. 18, 1992, during a labour dispute at the Yellowknife gold mine, the nine miners —who had either crossed the picket line or had beenhired as replacement workers —were killed when a bomb exploded underground.
Roger Warren, a striking miner who was convicted in 1995 of nine counts of second-degree murder,is serving alife sentence in a Manitoba prison.
But no memorial is planned to mark the 15th anniversary of the blast. The last memorial took place in 2002, when family and friends gathered around a plaque near the N.W.T. legislature. Many of the people directly involved in the explosion have since moved on, and the mine itself is closed.
In December 2004, following a decade of preparation and the longest and largest trial held in Yellowknife, Lutz concluded that other parties — including the Canadian Auto Workers union, the N.W.T. government, mine owner Royal Oak Ventures, security firm Pinkerton's of Canada Ltd., and two union members — held responsibility for the deaths, along with Warren.
In his decision, Lutz ruled that none of the involved parties did enough to control the escalating picket-line violence that led up to the explosion.
The defendants filed appeals of the ruling in 2005. The victims' families also appealed Lutz's decision, objecting to his ruling that the head of Royal Oak Ventures, Margaret (Peggy) Witte, bore no personal responsibility for the deaths.
The defendants paid a multimillion-dollar judgment in trust to the compensation board, but Champion said the families will not see any of that money until the legal process is complete.