Historic Guilty Pleas to OHS and Criminal Charges Relating to Christmas Eve

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The tragic death of four workers falling on a construction site on Christmas Eve 2009 in Toronto, Ontario garnered nationwide media attention and quickly became known as one of the highest profile workplace accidents in Ontario. The accident spurred a historic, comprehensive review of Ontario’s occupational health and safety system and led to amendments to Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA). It also resulted in both regulatory and criminal charges being filed against the parties involved in the construction project.

On June 15, 2012, Metron Construction entered a guilty plea to one charge of criminal negligence causing death under the Criminal Code. Its President also pleaded guilty to four charges under the OHSA. The President has not as yet been sentenced. A joint submission has been placed before the court for a fine of $22,500 per charge, for a total of $90,000. Similarly, Metron has not yet been sentenced on its guilty plea to the criminal negligence charge. The Crown has sought a penalty of $1 million dollars. The defence has not yet completed their submissions on sentencing.

This case is the first corporate guilty plea in Ontario under the Criminal Code as amended by Bill C-45 in 2004. If imposed, a corporate sentence of one million dollars will represent the highest penalty for criminal negligence causing death for a workplace accident in Canadian history. The only other prior corporate criminal negligence conviction in such a matter, on a guilty plea in 2008, was Transpave, resulting in a fine of $100,000.00 in Quebec. The proposed fine against Metron’s President will, if imposed, set a new high water mark for a sentence against any individual, let alone a director and officer under an OHS statute in Canada.

For further information please do not hesitate to contact Cheryl A. Edwards cedwards@heenan.ca, Jeremy Warning jwarning@heenan.ca, Shane Todd stodd@heenan.ca, or Julie-Anne Cardinal jcardinal@heenan.ca.

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