Coroner decision to hold Babine inquest in Burns Lake welcome news for injured workers and victims’ families

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VICTORIA – A decision today by the B.C. Coroner’s office to hold the Babine Mill disaster inquest in Burns Lake will help the injured workers and families of the victims participate in the inquest, say the New Democrats.

“The coroner’s inquest doesn’t replace a full inquiry, especially when it comes to holding responsible parties accountable,” said New Democrat jobs and labour spokesperson Shane Simpson. “However we can learn from the coroner’s inquest, and the coroner’s decision to hold the Babine mill inquiry in Burns Lake means the injured workers and families of the victims are able to participate in the process.”

Simpson said as recently as November the provincial government was refusing to move the inquest from Prince George – four hours away from the disaster site in Burns Lake – to Burns Lake.

In November, during question period in the legislature, Simpson said, “Since 2012, the workers and their families have been frustrated by attempts to get justice in this matter. They asked for a public inquiry, and the Liberal government said no. They asked for legal counsel to ensure their voices were heard, and as recently as November 19 the Premier said no. They’ve asked that the inquest be held in Burns Lake and not four hours away in Prince George so that they can attend, and the answer continues to be no.”

Simpson said that even though the coroner has now decided to hold part of the inquiry in Burns Lake, we are still a very long way away from seeing justice for the 19 injured workers and the two workers who lost their lives in the explosion in January of 2012.

New Democrats have been calling for a full and public inquiry that would be capable of generating systemic reforms that improve workers’ safety and lives across the province, and providing some level of accountability to those most directly impacted by the tragedy.