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New Criminal Code Provisions for Workplace Safety
June 18, 2003

The Government of Canada has introduced legislation which, if it becomes law, will amend the Criminal Code to impose a legal duty on employers and those who direct work to take reasonable measures to protect employee and public safety.here.

The proposed amendments are found in Bill C-45, An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (Criminal Liability of Organizations) and were introduced in response to the Westray Mine disaster that occurred in 1992.

Bill C-45 has only received first reading in Parliament and is not yet law.

If enacted, where an employer or supervisor wantonly or recklessly disregards his or her duty to protect an employee, and bodily harm or death results, the employer or supervisor could be charged with criminal negligence.

In addition, Bill C-45 introduces the concept of an “organization”, which replaces the definition of “corporation” under the Code. “Organization” will include “a public body, a body corporate, a society, a company,” (which are presently defined in the Code) but which adds “a firm, a partnership, a trade union or an unincorporated association.”

The proposed amendments would make corporations criminally liable:

  • as a result of the actions of those who oversee day-to-day operations but who may not be directors or executives;
  • when officers with executive or operational authority intentionally commit, or direct employees to commit, crimes to benefit the organization;
  • when officers with executive or operational authority become aware of offences being omitted by other employees but do not take action to stop them;
  • when the actions of those with authority, and other employees, taken as a whole, demonstrate a lack of care that constitutes criminal negligence.

Finally, the proposed amendments increase the maximum fine that may be imposed on an organization for a summary conviction, from $25,000 to $100,000. There is currently no set limit on fines for indictable or more serious offences, and this would remain unchanged under the proposed legislation.

 

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