JUSTICE MINISTER INTRODUCES MEASURES TO PROTECT WORKPLACE SAFETY AND MODERNIZE CORPORATE LIABILITY
Ottawa, June 12, 2003 - Today in the House of Commons, the Honourable Martin Cauchon, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, introduced legislation that will help ensure organizations, including corporations, are held accountable when they commit criminal offences.
"Employers must fully recognize their responsibility in providing a safe work environment," said Minister Cauchon. "Failure to do so in a manner that endangers employee and public safety must be appropriately dealt with through our criminal laws. I am pleased to introduce measures today that will effectively modernize the law on corporate liability."
The proposed amendments were first outlined in the Government's November 2002 response to the 15th Report of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights on workplace safety and corporate liability, a review prompted by the Westray mine disaster in Nova Scotia.
The proposed measures impose a legal duty on employers and those who direct work to take reasonable measures to protect employee and public safety. If this duty is carelessly disregarded and bodily harm or death results, an organization could be charged with criminal negligence. These measures build on recent reforms to Part II of the Canada Labour Code that protect workers against workplace hazards.
The Government's proposals also update the law on corporate criminal liability by ensuring it reflects current organizations. The proposed measures would make corporations criminally liable:
as a result of the actions of officers 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 corporation;
when officers with executive or operational authority become aware of offences being committed by other employees but do not take action to stop them; and
when the actions of those with authority and other employees, taken as a whole, demonstrate a lack of care that constitutes criminal negligence.
Under the legislation, organization refers to a variety of group structures, including a public body, a company or partnership, among others.
New provisions on corporate sentencing are also proposed to help ensure the penalty reflects the seriousness of the crime. The courts will be asked to consider a series of specific factors when deciding on a sentence, including previous convictions or regulatory offences by the corporation, or measures taken to reduce the likelihood of further criminal activity.
The proposed legislation, which clarifies and expands the conditions for liability of organizations, including corporations, would apply to all criminal offences, including those related to workplace safety, crimes against the environment and fraud, including capital markets fraud. However, the Government also introduced today separate measures to go further in strengthening the enforcement and legislation against serious capital markets fraud - crimes that threaten the vitality of Canada's financial markets.
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Special Assistant, Communications
Office of the Minister of Justice
Media Relations Office
Department of Justice Canada
(Thanks to Tony Moscioni for forwarding this)