Bill C-45, sometimes known as the Westray bill, was a piece of federal legislation that, on March 31, 2004, modified the Canadian Criminal Code. The Bill, which was introduced in 2003, set new legal obligations for occupational health and safety and imposed harsh penalties for infractions that result in harm or death. The Bill established new guidelines for establishing criminal responsibility for groups, including companies, their agents, and those who supervise the work of others. NOTE: The federal government of Canada recycles bill numbers. The Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Criminal Code, and other Acts are now being amended and announced through Bill C-45. Criminal Code provisions The Criminal Code was amended to include Section 217.1, which states: ""217.1 Every person who undertakes, or has the authority to direct, how another person does work or performs a task is under a legal duty to take reasonable steps to prevent bodily harm to that person, or any other person, arising from that work or task."" The revision also included Sections 22.1 and 22.2 to the Criminal Code, which hold organizations and its representatives criminally accountable for carelessness (22.1) and other offenses, and redefined the term ""organization"" to encompass a larger definition of those possibly liable (22.2).
Why did the Criminal Code's Section 217.1 come into being?
The Westray Bill, also known as Bill C-45 (2003), was formed in response to the 1992 Westray coal mining accident in Nova Scotia, which resulted in the deaths of 26 miners when methane gas ignited and caused an explosion. The corporation made minimal modifications despite major safety concerns being highlighted at the time by staff members, union representatives, and government inspectors. The calamity happened as a result of the small modifications. Following the incident, neither the police nor the provincial government were able to bring charges against the business or three of its managers. To look into the disaster, a royal commission of inquiry was appointed. The Royal Commission issued 74 recommendations in 1998. The recommendations made by this panel, particularly number 73, were the driving force behind changes to the Criminal Code.
What are the key clauses of Criminal Code Section 217.1?
The Criminal Code's Section 217.1 established guidelines for determining an organization's criminal responsibility for the actions of its officials. creates a legal obligation for all those who are ""directing the work of others"" to take all appropriate measures to safeguard the safety of employees and the general public. outlines the elements that courts must take into account when imposing a sentence on a group. outlines potential probationary restrictions that a judge could place on a company.
Who is impacted by these Criminal Code clauses?
Anywhere in Canada, these Criminal Code rules apply to businesses and people that manage the labor of others. Governments at the federal, provincial, and local levels as well as corporations, private businesses, nonprofits, and non-governmental organizations are among these entities.
Who is in charge of applying the Criminal Code?
The Criminal Code is enforced by police and crown lawyers. Serious accidents must be investigated by the police and the crown, who will also decide whether the Canadian Criminal Code requires any charges to be brought. The Criminal Code is a fundamentally different set of legislation from ""normal"" Occupational Health and Safety Laws (OH&S) and how they are applied, and they should not be conflated.
Who is in charge of applying occupational health and safety regulations?
The Ministry (or Department) of Labor or the Workers' Compensation Board (WCB), depending on your jurisdiction, is in charge of enforcing OH&S regulations. Each province, territory, and the federal government are in charge of executing its own unique set of occupational health and safety rules across the country. Each jurisdiction has inspectors who go to businesses to make sure they are following their OH&S laws. These inspectors carry out an investigation after a regrettable significant incident to decide whether or not charges should be filed in accordance with the relevant section(s) of the OH&S Act or regulation. The accused person or business could subsequently have to go to court, where a fine or other punishment could be levied if they are found guilty. Normally, the police stay out of this procedure.
Does the Criminal Code's Section 217.1 have any effect on other laws?
The Canadian Criminal Code was the only subject of Bill C-45 (2003), a standalone piece of legislation. Other federal, provincial, or territorial occupational health and safety legislation and regulations are not violated or superseded by it. However, it does mandate that the courts consider any sentences issued by other jurisdictions when deciding on a punishment in the event of a conviction.
Can a business be charged simultaneously under the Criminal Code and a provincial OH&S act?
It is indeed feasible. Investigations into significant workplace accidents by the police and health and safety inspectors are standard procedure. The police and provincial authorities would often collaborate to determine which charges should be brought. Although it is doubtful that two sets of charges would be brought, technically, charges might be brought by the police under both the criminal code and the Occupational Health and Safety Act or provincial rules. This happened in the instance of Millennium Crane Rentals from Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario.
What is a fine set like?
Despite being found guilty under the Criminal Code, corporations cannot be sent in jail. The maximum fine for an organization for a summary conviction offense (lesser offenses where individuals could face up to six months in jail and possibly a $2000 fine) has raised from $25,000 to $100,000 as a result of changes made by the Westray bill. There is no cap on the more severe offenses. When deciding how much to fine the corporation, the court may take into account the following factors: ""Moral culpability"": The financial benefit obtained from committing the crime and the level of planning. societal interest • The necessity of maintaining operations and employment • The expense of gathering evidence and bringing charges •Any regulatory fines imposed on the organization for the offense that are separate from those under the Criminal Code. Rehabilitation possibilities: •Penalties imposed on managers and employees for their role in the crime •Previous convictions or regulatory offences Restitution: •Compensating victims shows that the organization is trying to make up for the harm it caused. •Attempts to hide assets to avoid paying a fine •Measures taken to reduce the likelihood of further criminal activity
Has anyone been charged?
Yes, there have been several cases where charges have gone to court Most of these cases did see other charges and fines issued using the occupational health and safety legislation of the jurisdiction where the incident took place. Below is a summary of some of these cases where individuals were charged under the Criminal Code. On February 15, 2017, a worker at Rainbow Concrete in Sudbury, Ontario was driving a dump truck and was killed when an archway collapsed on top of the cab of the truck. The company was charged with twelve charges under the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act. On June 3, 2015, an employee of Detour Gold, an open pit mine near the Ontario-Quebec border was exposed to sodium cyanide that leaked out of a reactor as a result of ongoing repairs. The employee became ill and died from sodium cyanide poisoning. The company was charged with criminal negligence causing death under the Criminal Code and 15 charges under the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA). In addition, charges against three Detour Gold supervisors were placed. The company pleaded guilty to the criminal negligence charge in exchange for the charges under the OHSA being withdrawn. The company faced a penalty of $1.4 million, a victim fine surcharge and provide compensation to the deceased employee’s family. The charges against the supervisors are still pending. On September 20, 2013 a mechanic was killed while removing a gas tank from a van with an acetylene torch at Your Mechanic Auto Corner located in Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia. Mr. Hoyeck, owner and supervisor of the mechanic garage faced 12 charges under the Nova Scotia Occupational Health and Safety Act and was charged under the Criminal Code with criminal negligence causing death. In January 2019, the Nova Scotia Supreme Court ruled that Mr. Hoyeck was not guilty of criminal negligence causing the death of a worker. The judge concluded the condition of the workplace environment demonstrated the employer’s reckless disregard for the lives and safety of others, but this fact did not cause the worker’s death. The worker died as the result of his decision to use the acetylene torch to remove the gas tank. The court noted, as a trained mechanic, the decision to use the acetylene torch should have not been made. On August 24, 2012 Keith Dunford, a professional truck driver who while speeding and distracted in a construction zone struck and killed an 18-year-old flag person in Saskatchewan. Dunford was charged with criminal negligence causing death and dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing death. At trial, the Crown dismissed the negligence charge because there was no proof of disregard for lives and safety of others. The conviction of dangerous operation of motor vehicle charge prevailed under the Criminal Code and Dunford was sentenced to two years, less a day in jail, plus a three-year driving suspension. On January 9th, 2017 his case went into appeal and his sentence was upheld, ordering him back into custody. On February 11, 2010 Sault Ste Marie Police charged the owner of Millennium Crane Rentals and the crane operator with criminal negligence causing death after a municipal worker was killed while working in an excavation hole. The accident occurred on April 16, 2009 at an excavation site where sewage work was being performed. The crane toppled and fell into the hole killing the worker. In March 2011, the Crown announced that it had dropped the charges of criminal negligence causing death because there was no reasonable prospect of conviction based on the evidence. In July 2013, Millennium Crane Rental was, however, """"found guilty of failing to ensure that the crane was maintained in a condition that would not endanger a worker"""", and fined $70,000 for a violation of the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act. On December 24, 2009 four workers were killed and one was seriously injured at a Toronto construction site when the swing stage scaffolding they were on collapsed. Metron Construction and three corporate officers were charged with criminal negligence and fined $200,000 plus a victim surcharge of $30,000. Metron's owner was personally fined $90,000, plus a victim surcharge of $22,500 under the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act. A total of 61 charges were laid by the Ministry of Labour. The fine against the company was appealed and in September 2013, the Appeal court tripled the fine against Metron, raising it to $750,000 for Criminal Negligence. An additional victim surcharge of $112,500 was levied against the company. The appeals court judge found that the original fine of $200,000 was """"manifestly unfit"""". In 2016, a supervisor was charged and convicted under the Criminal Code, and was sentenced to 3.5 years in prison. On March 17, 2008 a paving company (Transpave) was charged and convicted of criminal negligence and fined $100,000 in the death of an employee, plus a $10,000 victim surcharge. On May 17, 2007, Mark Hritchuk, a Service Manager at a LaSalle, Quebec auto dealership was charged with criminal negligence after one of his employees caught on fire while using a makeshift fuel pump that had gone unrepaired and broken for several years. Mr. Daoust, a 22 year employee with the company, was engulfed in flames after a spark ignited fuel which had spilled on him, while he attempted to fill the gas tank of a vehicle whose fuel gage had broken and needed repairing. The employee survived but received third degree burns to 35% of his body. The case was brought before a court of inquiry on March 10, 2009. The case went to court in March 2012. Mr Hritchuk pleaded guilty of unlawfully causing bodily harm and negligence charges were withdrawn as the Crown deemed that Hritchuk had no intention to injure workers. On October 13, 2006 a train struck a maintenance vehicle, killing one worker and injuring three others. Two employees of Québec-Cartier were charged with criminal negligence causing death and three counts of criminal negligence causing bodily harm. The corporation was not charged. On November 29th, 2010 a Quebec Court acquitted both men on all counts, finding that the incident was an error due to a company culture of tolerance of unsafe practices and deficient training rather than a wanton act of criminal negligence. On June 12, 2006 a landscape contractor was crushed to death when the backhoe his employer was driving failed to stop, pinning the employee to a wall. The investigation of the incident found that the 30 year old backhoe had not received any regular maintenance since the vehicle was purchased and that no formal inspection had been done in the previous five years. Upon further investigation it was discovered that the vehicle had no braking capacity. In September 2010, the employer was convicted of criminal negligence causing death and was given a two year conditional sentence to be served in the community. On March 22, 2006 BC Ferries vessel Queen of the North sank after going off course and running aground killing two passengers. The ferry navigation officer was charged with two counts of criminal negligence causing death. The officer was reported to have been distracted by a personal interaction he was having with another person and did not realize the vessel was off course. On June 24th, 2013, he was sentenced to 4 years in prison and banned from operating a vessel for 10 years. An appeal has been filed. On April 19, 2004 near the city of Newmarket, Ontario a worker was killed after the ground around him collapsed while digging a ditch at a residential construction site. The construction site supervisor was charge under section 217.1 of the Criminal Code with one count of criminal negligence causing death. In March 2005, the charges of criminal negligence against the site supervisor were dropped in an apparent plea bargain which saw the supervisor agree to three of eight charges under the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act and a fine of $50,000 with a 25% victim surcharge.
How can I ensure a safe workplace and limit my liability?
Employers can limit their liability and reduce the chances of being charged under the provisions of the Criminal Code by implementing an effective workplace health and safety program. You will want to know: What your legal obligations are under occupational health and safety laws and standards. What hazards exist in your workplace. How to effectively reduce or eliminate them. You will also want to ensure employees are aware of the company's health and safety program, are informed of any risks, and receive appropriate training and protective equipment. Below are some OSH Answer documents that may help. You may also want to consider hiring a health and safety consultant to assist you with this process. Responsibilities OH&S Legislation in Canada - Introduction OH&S Legislation in Canada - Basic Responsibilities OH&S Legislation in Canada - Internal Responsibility System OH&S Legislation in Canada - Due Diligence OH&S Legislation in Canada - Competent Elements of a Health and Safety Program Basic OH&S Program Elements Job Hazard Analysis Risk Assessment Inspection Checklists - General Information Guide to Writing an OSH Policy Statement For further information, review our Health and Safety Programs section of OSH Answers.
Where can I find a copy of the Criminal Code?
Criminal Code of Canada Plain Language Guide: Bill C-45 - Amendments To The Criminal Code Affecting The Criminal Liability Of Organizations"""