Stratford Gazette editorial
Thirteen workers piled into a van after a long day of chicken catching on Feb. 6 and set out onto a road in Perth County, near the hamlet of Hampstead, northeast of Stratford. Shortly after, they collided with a truck. Ten of the workers — nine of them from Peru — died, along with the driver of the truck they had collided with at an intersection, and the three others were sent to hospital.
Four days later, the president of the United Food and Commercial Workers union implored Ontario’s chief coroner to call an inquest into one of the deadliest traffic accidents in the province’s history. Coroner Dr. Andrew McCallum said a decision on an inquest would be made when a fuller picture of the crash emerged. Almost six months after that request, we’re still waiting to hear if there will be such a public inquiry.
A core question about the accident – what caused it – was apparently resolved when the OPP, just days after the crash, cited error on behalf of the migrant worker driver who had failed to stop at a stop sign. There still appears to be credible reasons for empanelling a jury that could make recommendations to help prevent similar deaths in the future – one of the basic criteria of inquests.
As outlined by the food and commercial workers union, an examination of the transportation system for agriculture workers in Ontario, the type and licensing of vehicles used for such transportation, and the inspection and maintenance of such vehicles should be part of an inquest. Broader issues are also at play, including rules governing driver training, licensing and maximum hours of work. And a widened inquest could examine farm workplace safety issues, the agriculture industry’s reliance on temporary foreign worker programs, as well as subcontractors and unregistered recruiters.
Ontario PC Leader Tim Hudak said while the February collision was a tragedy for the families involved, he sees no need for an inquest or any other form of public inquiry. We disagree. There are many troubling questions remaining, and all of Canada’s migrant workers deserve answers to them.
– Metroland Media