Fighter for Corporate Criminal Accountability Will Be Missed, Say Steelworkers

VANCOUVER, Aug. 2, 2017 /CNW/ - Leaders of the United Steelworkers (USW) say Canada has lost a fighter for justice with the death of Brian Fitzpatrick, whose 24-year-old son was killed on a Kiewit Construction site at Toba Inlet, B.C., in 2009.

"Brian became a champion in our campaign to Stop The Killing, Enforce the Law," said Stephen Hunt, USW Western Canada Director. "Brian helped us as much as we helped him in his struggle to have charges laid in the preventable death of Sam, who was killed by a falling boulder in full view of his brother, Arlen."

Fitzpatrick had recently learned that the RCMP would be recommending criminal charges against Kiewit, eight years after Sam's death.

"Brian came to our union although neither he nor his son were USW members," Hunt said. "He talked to everyone who would listen, to try and make them understand that Sam was killed by corporate negligence and deliberate actions and decisions that put workers at risk, with no one held accountable."

On his own, Fitzpatrick talked to government officials, politicians, lawyers and media. And then, after talking to a lawyer who had worked on a case for the union, he came to the USW.

"Brian was totally committed and had the best reason in the world to fight for justice, not only for Sam, but for all workers. I am proud to have had him work with us and to have had his support for our campaign," said Hunt.

The USW national campaign is focused on enforcing the Westray Law, passed unanimously by Parliament in 2003, amending the Criminal Code and aimed at holding corporations criminally accountable for workplace death and injury. Despite apparent political commitment, enforcement has been minimal. 

"The law was named after the 1992 Westray Mine explosion in Nova Scotia that killed 26 miners," said USW National Director Ken Neumann. "This year marks 25 years since that tragedy. Meanwhile, up to 1,000 workers are killed every year across Canada."

Fitzpatrick, who told Sam's story at several USW events, said that getting involved with the union's campaign provided the support he needed to carry on in his fight for justice.

"I didn't feel alone any more with the force of the USW fighting, not just for families who have lost their loved ones, but for the future of all workers who face unnecessary danger by negligent bosses," he said in 2015.

"Sam Fitzpatrick's death is a textbook example of why the USW campaign is necessary," said Neumann. "Sam and his 20-year-old brother Arlen were rock scalers at Kiewit Construction's hydro project where they complained about work practices and the danger from rockfalls. Those warnings were disregarded."

The USW campaign, along with a video featuring Brian Fitzpatrick can be found at www.stopthekilling.ca.

SOURCE United Steelworkers (USW)

For further information: Stephen Hunt, USW District 3 Director, 604-816-2554; Ken Neumann, USW National Director, 416-544-5951; Bob Gallagher, USW Communications, 416-544-5966, 416-434-2221, bgallagher@usw.ca

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