Family still looking for answers in workplace death of 22-year-old First Nations man

Brittany Hobson
The family of a First Nations man who died while working on a construction project in northern Manitoba is still looking for answers nearly two years after his death.

Todd Maytwayashing died Jan. 17, 2018 while working for Forbes Bros. Ltd., a company contracted by Manitoba Hydro, to build a transmission line from the Keeyask Generating Station to another nearby station.

Barry Swan says his son was helping load steel beams onto a semi-truck when one of the beams fell and landed on his head.

To date the 22-year-old’s family knows little else about what occurred that day.

“We want answers and no one has come to us and said this is what happened that day. That’s all we want,” said Swan

In Manitoba, a fatality on the job triggers an investigation by Workplace Safety and Health officials.

The investigation was completed but the family says they have yet to see the final report.

Following the investigation, Forbes Bros. faced seven charges under the Workplace Safety and Health Act relating to failing to ensure the safety and health of its workers and failing to provide adequate training and competent supervision to its workers, among other charges.

Swan says the company has agreed to pay a fine totalling $150,000 as well as admitting to failing to ensure Maytwayashing’s “health and safety” instead of going to trial.

A spokesperson from Forbes Bros. would not comment on the plea deal stating in an email response, “this is currently before the court and we cannot comment so as to not prejudice the process,” adding, “we worked with Manitoba Workplace Safety and Health to update our hazard analysis to ensure a similar incident could not happen again.”

However, Swan says the family was never consulted on the charges or the plea deal and he was told not to speak out.

“We’ve been told don’t talk to anyone you’ll mess up the investigation. Like how do we mess up the investigation when we’re not even involved or privy to anything,” said Swan.

Dougald Lamont, leader of the Manitoba Liberal Party, has advocated for the family.

He says the province should have to enforce federal law, which would compel Forbes Bros. to face criminal charges.

The Westray Act amended the Criminal Code so corporations and company directors could be held criminally responsible for worker deaths and injuries.

“We often see that that almost never happens when it’s an accident at a workplace even though a corporation may be found liable, even though a corporation may plead guilty that almost nobody ever goes to jail,” said Lamont.

A spokesperson for the province’s Department of Justice wrote in an email the Crown Attorney’s office will go forward with charges that, “must have a reasonable likelihood of conviction and be in the public interest to proceed. In this specific matter, the Crown prosecuted charges as set out under the Workplace Safety and Health Act.”

Swan says the family isn’t seeking compensation only an apology from all parties, including Manitoba Hydro who operated the site the incident occurred on.

“Manitoba Hydro reached out to Mr. Swan after the tragic death of his son. Two directors from Manitoba Hydro met with Mr. Swan and his family at their family home June 15, 2018 where condolences and apologies were provided,” Bruce Owen, spokesperson for the Crown corporation wrote in an email.

Swan hopes changes are made quickly and swiftly.

“We all have children and families that work in industry and they should be better protected and they should be allowed to come home,” said Swan.

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