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Wednesday, 11 July 2012 11:21

Politicians hopefully starting to understand the need for protection for agriculture workers

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Bill C-45 The Westray Act, which mandates a duty for organizations to protect employees, arrives in Alberta. Defence Minister Peter MacKay who championed Bill C-45, was in Medicine Hat on July 9.

Bill C-45 should be of particular interest to employers in Alberta that operate under the Farm and Ranch exemption of the Occupation Health and Safety Act, because these employers are denied any protection from the Act and completely exposed to the Criminal Code of Canada.
Alberta’s agriculture employers have been lulled into believing being exempt from the provincial regulations means they can pick and choose which, if any, safety measures they must employ.
The Criminal Code contains no exemption for Alberta’s ag industry and codifies a “duty of care” for all employers. Those who operate within the provincial Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) standards enjoy the protection of a legislated partnership between the provincial government, the worker and the employer.
This legal covenant, when exercised in good faith, has long been held by the courts to meet the test of due diligence imposed by Canadian jurisprudence and is the effective standard. Without it, exempted employers must determine what the standard is and adhere to it on their own.
Add to that this same cohort of employers is actively discouraged from purchasing WCB protection (most don’t have it), you get a risk profile that is truly breathtaking.
Fortunately Ed Stelmach is back down on the farm. We now have a new worldly premier who understands the law and due process. She knows the current policy is outdated and in need of reform.
Alberta’s exempted employers would do well to work with our new premier rather than ignoring our modern reality and just hoping for the best.
Eric Musekamp, Bow Island, Alta.
(The writer is president of the Farmworkers Union of Alberta)

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Ryan Dahlman

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