Thirty years after Westray disaster, families say justice still rare in worker deaths

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NEW GLASGOW, N.S. — Family members who lost loved ones in the Westray coal mining disaster will mark the 30th anniversary today in a ceremony at a memorial park in New Glasgow, N.S., not far from the mine.

Genesta Halloran-Peters, who will give an address at the gathering, says the loss of her husband John Halloran had a huge impact on the direction of her life and the lives of her two children, with his absence felt "on every special occasion."

Halloran was one of 26 miners who died on May 9, 1992 when a methane and coal-dust explosion ripped through the shafts in Plymouth, N.S., with 11 bodies never recovered.

Halloran-Peters said in an interview Friday the fact nobody was ever convicted for the safety deficiencies documented in a public inquiry has made the loss more painful for relatives.

Debbie Martin, the sister-in-law of miner Glenn Martin, says a Criminal Code amendment referred to as the Westray law should be applied more often in worker deaths, and further training of police officers on how to investigate and provide evidence for potential prosecutions is required.

The United Steelworkers recently published a legal brief that indicated that since the law — which requires prosecutors to prove "wanton and reckless disregard" for worker safety — came into effect in 2004, there have only been nine convictions or guilty pleas across the country, and no convictions in Nova Scotia.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 9, 2022.

The Canadian Press

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