Woman killed at work memorialized in new law

Friends and family of Theresa Vince gathered outside a Sears store in Chatham, Ont., to mark the anniversary of her death and hail new legislation aimed at fighting workplace violence.

Family marks milestone in fight against workplace harassment

Friends and family of Theresa Vince gathered outside a Sears store in Chatham, Ont., on Wednesday to mark the anniversary of her death and to hail new legislation coming into effect this month aimed at fighting workplace violence in Ontario.

It has been 14 years since Vince was murdered by her boss, after years of unrelenting sexual harassment.

Family members said this would be the last annual public observance of her death because they've reached a milestone in the fight to end violence and sexual harassment in the workplace.

Billy Jo Vince holds a picture of her grandmother, Theresa Vince, as families and friends gather at the Chatham-Kent Civic Centre. ((CBC) )

Amendments to Ontario's Occupational Health and Safety Act come into force on June 15.

Under Bill 168, which ushers in the changes, workers will have the right to refuse work if they believe they are at risk of violence. Employers must also take precautions to protect workers from domestic violence that crosses into the workplace.

The bill's definition of workplace harassment includes troublesome comments and conduct known or likely to be known as unwelcome.

"The family was determined to take their loss and tragedy and turn it into a positive change for workplace safety. They didn't want one more family to experience their pain," said Joy Lang of the Chatham-Kent Women's Centre.

Vince, 56, a human resources training administrator, wife, mother and grandmother, had been set to retire at the end of June 1996 when she was shot to death by her store manager, Russell Davis, who then turned the gun on himself and took his own life.

Barbara Dupont, the mother of nurse Lori Dupont, who was killed at Hôtel-Dieu Grace Hospital in Windsor, Ont., on Nov. 12, 2005, paid tribute to the Vince family.

"These people have worked so hard and now can take pride in knowing that they've made a difference, and that's such a wonderful thing to be able to say," she said.

Her 36-year-old daughter died after her ex-boyfriend, Marc Daniel, 50, an anesthesiologist at the hospital, stabbed her in the chest. Daniel died several days later of a drug overdose in what was ruled a suicide.

During the memorial, while people gathered under a white canopy in pouring rain, Theresa Vince's daughter, Catherine Kedziora, took a moment to leave a rose in front of the Sears store.

Employers 'responsible to take care of those issues'

"When we started out 14 years ago, it was with some very specific goals in mind. As of June 15, we will have reached those goals," Kedziora said.

"If they're being bullied, if they're being sexually harassed, if they're being stalked, if they're in fear of their life, there are now legal remedies, and now employers will be, under the law, responsible to take care of those issues within the workplace."

The Vince and Dupont families celebrated another victory — having the province declare the first week of June as Sexual Harassment Awareness Week.

Theresa Vince's grandchildren carried a banner marking the week from the store to the Chatham-Kent Civic Centre.