The first criminal charge under the recent Bill C-45 amendments to the Criminal Codehas been dropped by the Crown, in return for the accused pleading guilty to violations of Ontario’s occupational health and safety legislation.
Bill C-45, An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (Criminal Liability of Organizations), came into effect on March 31, 2004. Among other things, the amendments expanded the circumstances under which corporations and other organizations may be held criminally accountable for the acts of their representatives, and established a legal duty for all persons directing work to take “reasonable steps” to ensure the safety of workers and the public.
The first person charged under Bill C-45 was Domenico Fantini, a supervisor employed by a small construction contractor in Ontario. The charges arose from an accident on a residential excavation project, where an employee working under Fantini’s supervision was buried alive when a nine-foot trench collapsed.
Fantini was charged with one count of criminal negligence causing death under the Bill C-45 amendments, and eight counts of contravening Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety Act. Interestingly, Fantini’s employer was not charged under Bill C-45.
In a March 2005 plea bargain agreement, the criminal charge was dropped in exchange for Fanitini pleading guilty to three of the OHSA violations. He received a $50,000 fine and was ordered to pay a 25% victim surcharge.
The withdrawal of the criminal charge leaves many questions still unanswered about how the Bill C-45 amendments will be applied, especially in relation to occupational health and safety matters.
(Click here for Bill C-45)