Father of killed worker Olivier Bruneau calls for crackdown on negligent employers
Christian Bruneau's son Olivier died at a condo construction site in Ottawa's Little Italy in March 2016
The father of Olivier Bruneau, who was killed in March by a falling chunk of ice at a Claridge Homes construction site in Little Italy, has started a petition calling for more criminal negligence charges to be laid when workers die on the job.
Christian Bruneau, Olivier's father, said he finds it hard to believe the job site his son was working at was truly safe right up until March 23, when the large piece of ice broke off the wall of the 30-metre-deep condo tower pit at the corner of Carling Avenue and Preston Street.
"Right after the death of my son they closed the site because [it was] unsafe, and it took five months to restore the safety of the site," Bruneau told CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning on Tuesday.
The Ministry of Labour launched an investigation into what happened, a standard procedure, and a rare Ottawa police criminal investigation is also ongoing.
"The Crown attorneys will lay charges in only .1 per cent of the situations, which is extremely low," Christian Bruneau said.
"That means that in 99.9 per cent of the situations, the entrepreneur will have taken all measures to prevent this kind of accident. And it is not the case because people die, and they die at a rate of [roughly] 1,000 Canadians per year. That's roughly 20 Canadians per week. That means 20 families per week that have to go through the disaster that my family is going through currently."
An online petition launched by Christian Bruneau on Sunday is calling on the federal Justice Department to:
- Take the necessary steps to increase the number of criminal negligence charges laid in worker fatalities.
- Provide police and Crown attorneys with the training, tools and experts needed to lay criminal negligence charges.
- Adopt a zero-tolerance policy on worker safety, with firm enforcement.
But Bruneau also thinks the fines companies face when their workers die on the job are too low. The same month Olivier Bruneau died, Ontario's Labour Ministry fined the Ottawa Catholic School Board $250,000 for the death of a maintenance worker.
If the fines were in the millions, Christian Bruneau believes fewer workers would be dying.
"If the penalty was $2.5 million instead of $250,000, the president of the company would tell his people, when they go to work in the morning, 'Supervisor, make sure we have no accidents today because I don't want to pay that fine. I cannot afford that,'" Christian Bruneau said.
"The ones that take worker safety seriously should not be concerned about penalties because they won't be applied to them. They won't break the law, let's say. But the ones that don't behave properly, yeah, they will get the penalty and they will know better for the future."