Amendments to Canadian criminal law have come into effect (March 31, 2004) that holds corporations more accountable for workplace injuries and deaths.
Minister of Justice and Attorney General Irwin Cotler said the legislation is important because it underscores the relationship between corporate liability and public safety, “and it says to employers that those who fail to provide safe workplaces may be dealt with severely through the criminal law.”
In the Bill C-45 amendments to the Criminal Code of Canada, organizations can be held criminally liable by:
- Criminal actions of senior officers who oversee day-to-day operations in addition to the acts of directors or executives
- Officers with executive or operational authority, who become aware of offences being committed by other employees but, in order to benefit the organization, do not take action to stop them
- The actions of those with authority and other employees, demonstrating a lack of care that constitutes criminal negligence
These changes increase the maximum fine that can be imposed on an organization for a summary conviction to $100,000 from $25,000.
There is no limit on fines for organizations that commit more serious offences.
The term “organization” is defined as a variety of group structures, including a public body, a company or partnership.
Bill C-45 imposes a legal duty on all those who direct work (including employers) to take reasonable measures to protect employee and public safety. Reckless disregard of this duty causing death or bodily harm could result in a charge of criminal negligence.
The provisions of Bill C-45 stem from a House of Commons standing committee report on workplace safety and corporate liability. This review was prompted by the Westray mine disaster that killed 26 miners in Nova Scotia on May 9, 1992.
More information on Bill C-45 is available on the Department of Justice website at: http://www.justice.gc.ca/eng/rp-pr/other-autre/c45/
An online version of the legislation is available at http://www.parl.ca/