Death of a pedestrian: the City of Greater Sudbury before the Supreme Court

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Death of a pedestrian: City of Greater Sudbury in Supreme Court

The verdict in this case could have important legislative implications for Canadian municipalities and businesses

The Supreme Court of Canada has considered the Grand Sudbury v. Ontario Ministry of Labor Wednesday morning. (Archives)

The Supreme Court heard the City of Greater Sudbury's appeal on Wednesday in the case surrounding the death of Cécile Paquette, a pedestrian fatally struck by a grader in 2015. The accident happened produced on a City site, but managed by a third party.

At the heart of the debate is the interpretation of various laws on occupational health and safety, with regard to the duties of employers, supervisors, builders and owners on a construction site.

The City of Greater Sudbury indicates that it was not acting as a builder at the time of the events, since it had hired the company Interpaving, which had undertaken to enforce labor standards on the construction site.

Cécile Paquette, 58, was crushed to death by a grader as she crossed Elgin Street where Interpaving employees were working on road repairs on September 30, 2015. (Archives)

For its part, the Ontario Ministry of Labour, which is acting as counsel in this case, maintains that as an employer, Greater Sudbury had a certain control over the site, especially in regarding the implementation of security plans.

The circumstances that led to Cécile Paquette's fatal runover were reviewed by the Court of Justice, Superior Court of Justice, and Court of Appeal for Ontario in 2018, 2019, and 2021, respectively.

In an initial verdict, the Ontario Court of Justice cleared the City of Greater Sudbury of seven counts against it, ruling that the City was neither acting as an employer nor as a builder at the time.

The decision was upheld in June 2019 by the Superior Court of Justice, after the Ontario Ministry of Labor appealed .

However, in its judgment, the Ontario Court of Appeal found that the previous verdicts failed to establish the facts necessary to determine the City's guilt or innocence. of Greater Sudbury, and that the matter should be reconsidered.

Jonathan C. Lisus, a lawyer representing Ontario's regional municipalities, intervened at the Supreme Court hearing on Wednesday to highlight the municipalities' concerns in this case.

According to him, the Crown's argument, which affirms that by deploying an inspector on the site, the City became responsible for all those who were there, creates a responsibility that is unbearable for the municipalities.

He cites, as an example, the difficulties of closely supervising construction sites that can extend over tens of kilometers.

According to Jonathan C. Lisus, municipalities cannot be held liable for incidents that occur at managed construction sites by third parties. (Archives)

For his part, a representative of the Retail Council of Canada argued that a broader interpretation of the role of employer could have an impact on small and medium-sized businesses in the country.

According to him, in the event of an accident on a construction site managed by a third party, it will be less costly for companies to pay the fine than to go to court to demonstrate that they have exercised due diligence, creating several financial barriers for businesses.

For his part, Crown Attorney David McCaskill says Greater Sudbury was largely in a position to exercise control over its construction site in 2015, since a few days before the incident occurred, the City had suspended work for a certain period due to safety concerns.

Being able to interrupt the work, that demonstrates the extent of the control exercised by the City, lon him.

The judges began their deliberations at the end of the hearing and no date has yet been set for the verdict.

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