letter

Investigate Migrant Worker Death on Norfolk County Farm

September 12, 2022

COATES to OPP: Investigate migrant worker death.

Staff Sergeant Jeffrey McNorgan OPP
548 Queensway West
Simcoe, ON N3Y 4J9

Dear Staff Sergeant Jeffrey McNorgan,

Migrant Worker Death on Norfolk County Farm

I am writing to you regarding the tragic workplace death of Garvin Yapp, a migrant farm worker from Jamaica who worked on Ontario farms for almost 35 years and was fatally injured at work while operating farm equipment on August 14 in Norfolk County. A week previous to his death, migrant farm workers in the Niagara region wrote to the Jamaican Ministry of Labour, comparing conditions for migrant farm workers in Ontario to ‘systematic slavery’. Like all workplace deaths in Canada, the circumstances of Garvin Yapp’s death must be criminally investigated by police authorities.

Bill C-45, also known as the Westray Bill, amended the Criminal Code and brought in special criminal negligence provisions for companies that disregard the health and safety of workers. The intent was to hold employers criminally liable for the deaths of workers.

Since March 31, 2004, Section 217.1 of the Criminal Code of Canada has made it a legal duty that all persons directing work, or having the authority to direct work, must take reasonable steps to prevent bodily harm arising from work.

“217.1 Everyone who undertakes, or has the authority, to direct how another person does work or performs a task is under a legal duty to take reasonable steps to prevent bodily harm to that person, or any other person, arising from that work or task.” — source: Department of Justice, Canada

I have enclosed a package of material that was prepared by the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services to educate and advise the police services across Ontario about the amendments to the Criminal Code made by Bill C-45 (2003).

The package consists of a memo dated March 30, 2004 that went to every Chief of Police in Ontario as well as the OPP Commissioner. Attached to that memo is a copy of Bill C-45 as it was passed by the House of Commons as well as a plain language guide to Bill C-45. It also includes a copy of “A guide to investigating Corporate Criminal Negligence”. This guide was prepared in consultation with police officers, prosecutors, and lawyers and is intended to assist police to conduct an investigation of a workplace fatality or serious injury through a C-45 lens.

Every worker who is killed at work deserves to have their death investigated through the lens of C-45. Their family deserves to know the police have done more than rule out foul play, that they have looked at criminal negligence by the employer as a possible cause.

One of the police officers involved in the development of “A guide to investigating Corporate Criminal Negligence” was Detective Kevin Sedore of the Toronto Police Service. He led a criminal investigation into the December 24, 2009 tragedy which killed four workers and severely injured a fifth worker. The investigation resulted in a criminal negligence conviction of Metron Construction Corporation. In addition, Metron’s Project Manager was found guilty of four counts of criminal negligence causing death and one count of criminal negligence causing bodily harm. An inquest was held on January, 31, 2022.

We hope that you find this information useful for the investigation into the tragic death of Garvin Yapp, and any future workplace fatalities you or your officers investigate.

We are calling on your office to conduct a full criminal investigation of the incident, under Section 217.1 of the Criminal Code of Canada. It’s the law.

For more information, please see my op ed in The Toronto Star, “Many workplace ‘accidents’ are preventable. Stop the killing, and start criminal investigations” from July, 19, 2021 about how police can work together with labour to enforce Bill C-45.

The OFL is eager to support the police in their investigations so please do not hesitate to contact us for insight on the law.

Sincerely,

PATTY COATES
President, Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL)

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