Westray Families Group seek commitment to worker protection law

Published on March 10, 2014

After meeting with Pictou County Council on Monday evening, representatives of the United Steelworkers (USW) and members of the Westray Families' Group will pay a special visit today to the office of Central Nova MP and Canada's Justice Minister, Peter MacKay, to seek his recommitment to the spirit of a law he so passionately endorsed a decade ago.

Known as the Westray Law, amendments to the Criminal Code were passed unanimously in the House of Commons in 2003, with the support and leadership of then-opposition MP MacKay. The Westray amendments hold corporations, their directors and executives criminally accountable for workplace deaths. The move was seen as a victory for workers. It was also a rare unified response to the horrific Westray coalmine explosion in Nova Scotia that killed 26 miners on May 9, 1992.

However, in the decade since, more than 9,000 Canadians have been killed on the job, yet not one corporate executive has faced a single day in jail.

The USW has launched a national campaign asking provincial attorneys general to take steps to enforce the Westray Law. Supporters want to know where MacKay stands as Canada's chief lawmaker.

"I have personally been in touch with both his Ottawa office and his office here in Pictou County," said USW national director Ken Neumann. "We understand that he is a busy cabinet minister, but his voice now is important to workers, and the thousands of Canadian families who have not received the kind of justice that the Westray amendments promised. It would mean so much."