New revelations support call for public inquiry into Burns Lake explosion

By , on March 18, 2014



VICTORIA – Revelations that WorkSafeBC didn’t use all the investigatory tools at its disposal following the explosion and fire at the Burns Lake sawmill are just the latest reasons a fully independent and public inquiry is needed, say the New Democrats.

“We learned this week that since 2007, WorkSafeBC investigators had special constable status, and could have used stronger investigation techniques and procedures in the aftermath of the Babine Forest Products sawmill fire and explosion,” said New Democrat labour critic Harry Bains. “Instead, under the watch of the Liberal government, WorkSafeBC badly bungled the investigation to the point that now no one will be held criminally responsible.

“We need a fully public and independent investigation, so that the workers, the victims and their families will be able to see why this investigation was so badly mishandled.”

On Jan. 20, 2012, a dust-fuelled fire and explosion destroyed the mill, killing two workers and badly injuring 20 others. Nearly two years later, Crown counsel concluded that the investigation wasn’t handled properly and no criminal charges would be laid.

Bains and New Democrat forest critic Norm Macdonald raised the matter in question period Thursday. Jobs minister Shirley Bond refused to commit to a public inquiry, the kind that the families have wanted since they learned the investigation had been botched.

“The minister kept falling back on the position that a public inquiry wouldn’t lead to charges being laid in this case, but that’s just her way of dodging accountability,” said Macdonald. “The government has put in place a series of half-measures – like having the premier’s deputy investigate – that don’t go nearly far enough.

“What’s needed is a full, public investigation, one that will determine how this tragedy happened and how WorkSafeBC failed in its responsibility.”

Bains said finding out the failures of WorkSafeBC – and putting solutions in place – is the best way to keep the tens of thousands of millworkers in B.C. safe.

“When the victims and their families came to the legislature last week, they said they were fighting to make sure no more tragedies happen,” said Bains. “If the Liberal government wants to honour that, they should immediately call a public inquiry into this tragedy and its aftermath.”

Article courtesy of official NDP media release, 14 March 2014.