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Investigation of fatal Babine Forest Products sawmill explosion was flawed, government report finds

Pulp & Paper Canada
February 19, 2014
By Pulp & Paper Canada

A report recently released by the British Columbia government, the Babine Explosion Investigation: Fact Patterns and Recommendations, states that WorkSafeBC paid insufficient attention to important legal precedents that underpin the legitimate gathering of evidence for prosecution purposes, even though the Criminal Justice Branch had previously shared its concerns on collection of evidence. Although it appears this was a difference of legal opinions, the importance of the issue must be fully acknowledged, along with the severity of its possible impacts.

The report was conducted by John Dyble, deputy minister to the premier and head of the public service.

Provincial premier Christie Clark has accepted all of the recommendations, with a particular focus on the recommendation that Len Doust, QC, be retained as an independent advisor, both to oversee implementation of these recommendations and to provide further input as he sees fit.

In his review of the report, Doust makes clear that a decision by Crown counsel to approve or not approve charges is not the proper subject for a public inquiry.

Premier Clark and Shirley Bond, the province’s Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training Minister, met with the chair of WorkSafeBC to discuss the report and the necessary next steps, including:
- That all the recommendations must be implemented.
- WorkSafeBC immediately develop an action plan for implementation.
- WorkSafeBC fully examine why it failed to ensure the rules of evidence-gathering were observed, or request clarification from Criminal Justice Branch to safeguard its admissibility.

The report’s recommendations fall into four categories:
1. Measures to improve interaction between investigating and prosecuting agencies.
2. Improvement of policies, procedures and communications within WorkSafeBC.
3. Enhanced training and improved working relationships.
4. Moving forward.

The full report can be found here: http://www.labour.gov.bc.ca/wab/pdf/Babine_report_Web_140211.pdf.

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