Threats after nail gun incident forced shutdown at work site, company says
Apology would go long way to begin healing in family and community, says victim's mother
A construction company in Pictou County, N.S., says it has stopped work at a site because of threats of violence following an alleged racist incident last month.
A young black man suffered a serious injury when he was shot with a nail gun. Work has stopped at the site where he was wounded.
"We have been forced to shut down job sites due to ongoing threats and our employees have suffered as a result," the company, P.Q. Properties Ltd., said through lawyer Craig Clarke in a letter released Wednesday to media.
In an interview with CBC, Clarke said the threats have come in anonymous emails, phone calls and on social media.
Workers did not return to the site where the nail gun incident took place Sept. 19 because of safety fears, he said. "They need a few days."
Owner Paul Quinn is a New Glasgow-based property developer and owner of P.Q. Properties Ltd.
The workers were building him a new home when Nhlanhla Dlamini, 21, was shot by a co-worker, who allegedly pulled back the safety on the air-powered tool, aimed it at him and waited for him to turn and run before firing.
Dlamini suffered a collapsed lung and required emergency surgery. He was hospitalized for four days.
Shawn Wade Hynes, 43, was arrested Sept. 27 and is facing a charge of criminal negligence causing bodily harm in connection with the incident.
Dlamini says the act was a culmination of racial harassment and bullying that included verbal abuse and physical actions such as stapling his coat to a structure, throwing objects at him and deliberately knocking a board out of his hands causing him to fall off balance.
Clarke said the letter outlined the company's interpretation of the events. He said Hynes is off work but hasn't been fired. He said the company is not paying for the worker's defence.
"In summary we again wish Mr. Dlamini a full and successful recovery and ask that the public please respect the due process of our justice system."
Clarke confirmed that the company has not been charged criminally and will co-operate fully with the province's Labour Department investigation.
He said Dlamini refused an offer to seek medical treatment at the time of the injury, a statement confirmed Wednesday by the man's mother, Stacey. She spoke on behalf of her son.
"He was worried it would cost money. He just wanted to get out of there and go home," she said, adding Quinn dropped her son off in the driveway of his house. A family friend took Nhlanhla to hospital, where Stacey met them.
Meanwhile, the family is waiting for an apology, Stacey said, but she isn't holding out much hope for a sincere expression of remorse.
"What we've tried to do in requesting an apology is to give Mr. Quinn an opportunity to show the community that he does feel some ... empathy, remorse that this happened. It seems very elusive," she said.
"I feel he missed an opportunity to build a bridge, not just to our family but to the black community in our area, which is incensed — very, very angry. This was kind of a chance to make a positive gesture and I just feel like the lawyer's letter falls short of that hope."
Clarke said Quinn was hesitant to say much to Dlamini or his family because it was an emotional time and also he was afraid of interfering in the RCMP's investigation.
"In our opinion contacting Mr. Dlamini during the ongoing RCMP investigation would not have been appropriate and may even be detrimental to the investigation and due process," the letter said.
"In addition it was certainly not our intent to minimize Mr. Dlamini's injury and we certainly apologize for any misunderstanding in this regard."
'He wants to move on'
A workers' compensation claim has been initiated and the Department of Labour is expected to begin its investigation shortly, Stacey said. That investigation was sidelined briefly after the RCMP began its criminal probe of the nail gun incident.
"Now that the charges have been laid, the Department of Labour's safety officer is keen on interviewing my son and I expect that will happen before the end of this week."
Dlamini is recovering and wants to get back to work, Stacey said.
"To be honest, we're South Africans, we take things in stride. So I think he's doing OK, he's pretty resilient. He's focused. He wants to move on, he wants to go back to work."