Canada
Union angered by lack of action after workers' deaths

Credits: Stan Raper

RANDY RICHMOND | QMI AGENCY

LONDON - The coroner's rejection of an inquest into the deaths of 10 migrant workers in a horrific crash near Stratford a year ago puts the onus on Ontario's new premier to take action, a farm workers' union says.

"If the coroner's office is not going to be holding an inquest then it basically leaves it at the footsteps of the new premier and minister of agriculture (premier-designate Kathleen Wynne has said she'll take on the job of agriculture minister for a year) to look at this matter and put in some regulations to make sure these types of things don't happen," Stan Raper, a national co-ordinator with the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW), said Monday.

"I'm very concerned about how farm workers are being transported."

For the past year, the UFCW and others have called for an inquest into the Feb. 6, 2012, two-vehicle crash in Hampstead, near Stratford, that killed 10 farm workers, most of them from Peru, in a van and the London driver of a truck.

The UFCW publicly called out the province Monday for its year-long silence on the issue.

"A year has passed since Hampstead. There is no excuse for further delay," Wayne Hanley, the national president of UFCW Canada, stated in news release.

Asked about that silence, Ontario's chief coroner told The Free Press there would be no inquest.

"There was a coroner's investigation into each of the deaths of those involved in the Hampstead crash," said Dr. Dan Cass, interim chief coroner of Ontario.

After that investigation and those by the OPP and the Labour Ministry, the coroner's office decided an inquest would not result in recommendations that could prevent similar deaths, Cass said.

"This was a collision which, tragic though it was, resulted from driver error and none of those other factors were found to play a role."

The UFCW charges that farm vehicles are not covered under the same motor vehicle rules as others on the highway, and that's putting workers at risk.

But Cass said the coroner's investigation determined the way the workers were being transported was not a factor in the collision.

The decision to not hold an inquest was made in the fall, he said.

The coroner's office handles 16,000 deaths a year, and does not as a rule announce when an inquest will not be done, Cass added.

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