Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Workers killed on the job in Ottawa remembered on the National Day of Mourning

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Canadians across the country paused on Sunday to remember workers who have been injured or killed on the job for the National Day of Mourning.

In Ottawa, there have been several devastating workplace fatalities in recent years.

That includes the horrific Eastway Tank explosion, which killed six workers and injured a seventh person, to the case of Nick Chenier, who was electrocuted on the job last year. The case is now before the courts.

“If there is a good side to grief, I have not yet reached it,” said Jennifer Chenier, who was a keynote speaker at the event. “Time is not helping and some days I feel as if the pain deepens. The road ahead seems longer without you walking with us. I am resistant to joy.”

As she continues to work through her grief, Chenier speaks of her son Nick, who was killed on the job in May 2023.

“I’m afraid that healing means forgetting and I’m not ready,” she said.

Chenier’s sudden death has left behind unmeasurable pain and suffering for his family. Chenier was trimming hedges in Manotick when he was electrocuted after hitting an overhead hydro line that was buried within a hedge.

“I will stand by my promise to him that I will make sure that justice is done and that this will be preventable to other families and communities,” she said.

On the National Day of Mourning, dozens gathered at Vincent Massey Park for an event held by the Ottawa and District Labour Council.

“To employers, we say there’s a Health and Safety Act, there are regulations that go with the Health and Safety Act, and to allow those workers to work in a health and safety environment,” said Sean McKenny, president of the Ottawa and District Labour Council.

Ottawa has witnessed several workplace fatalities, including six people who were killed on the job in the Eastway Tank explosion in January 2022.

“This is a really important day of remembrance,” said Seamus O’Regan, Minister of Labour. “It is a very important day to remember that challenge that we have to get better at occupational health and safety for every worker in the country.”

Nick Chenier, 20, died during a workplace accident in Manotick on Friday, May 5, 2023. (Supplied)

The Ottawa and District Labour Council says Chenier’s death is the first time that a criminal negligence causing death charge has been laid against an employer or supervisor of a company.

Ottawa police charged 38-year-old Steven Deans, a manager with Best Green Hedges, with criminal negligence causing death on Wednesday. The Ministry of Labour has also laid five charges against the company and its owner. On Thursday, the owner pleaded guilty to a charge of failing, as director, to take all reasonable care to ensure the corporation complied with the Occupational Health and Safety Act and its regulations. A judge imposed a total of $56,000 in fines.

For Chenier’s mother, it won’t bring back Nick, but his thoughtful demeanour lives on.

“He was an amazing young man. He had the most amazing sense of humour. He could take any moment and make you laugh,” said Chenier.

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