NNSL Photo/Graphic

Canadian North

Home page text size buttonsbigger textsmall textText size Email this articleE-mail this page

GNWT facing asbestos-related safety charges
Supervisor charged over release of cancer-causing material during renovations at Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre

John McFadden
Northern News Services
Friday, May 15, 2015

The territorial government is facing five safety act charges after the Workers Safety and Compensation Commission accused a work-site supervisor of failing to prevent the release of asbestos during renovations at the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre in 2012.

The supervisor, a project officer with the Department of Public Works, is expected to enter pleas in territorial court on Tuesday after also being charged with six workplace safety violations.

The charges were laid in October of 2013.

The worker's role in the renovations is not entirely clear but he is named as a supervisor in court documents.

The museum is run by the territorial government under the Department of Education, Culture and Employment.

The asbestos was allegedly released during work in or near the boiler room, according to court documents.

Vancouver lawyer John Cliffe was appointed special prosecutor for the case.

That is done to prevent a prosecutor in the NWT justice department from prosecuting a GNWT employee and avoiding any conflict of interest, Cliffe said.

"The employees who were exposed to the asbestos work for a private contractor not the government," Cliffe said.

He would not name that company, he said, while the matter is still before the courts.

The supervisor's Edmonton lawyer David Myrol, who specializes in occupational health and safety cases, confirmed that a plea deal has been reached but chose not to discuss any details of it.

He would not say if the man has agreed to plead guilty.

But a trial date has now been cancelled and a sentencing hearing has been set for June 4.

The project officer's charges include failing to take reasonable precautions to prevent the release of asbestos, failing to conduct regular inspections, and failing to properly instruct workers under his direction.

Court documents reveal that there were actually two releases of asbestos while the work was being done in 2012.

The first was on Jan. 19, the second was on Oct. 11. It is not known whether any employees were adversely affected by the release.

Asbestos, an insulation material well known for its carcinogenic effects, is reportedly the single largest on-the-job killer in Canada, accounting for 368 deaths in 2013 alone.

E-mailWe welcome your opinions. Click here to e-mail a letter to the editor.