Silence over ruled in Supreme Court

The queen of the north accident has now firmly entered into the legal brawl stage. One of the first shots from the court rooms, from the Supreme Court of BC no less, comes in the form of support for a labour relations ruling, on whether or not the crew had the right to remain silent, on the events surrounding the grounding on Gill Island, and subsequent sinking, of the passenger ferry Queen of the North, on March 22, 2006.

The official Transportation Safety Board of Canada report came out at the end of January 2008, and pretty much discarded all other causes, but loss of situational awareness – human error. A distraction which may revolved around heated moments at the time of impact, between the fourth officer and his helms person. Both of whom, also happen to be in a personal relationship that went sour, weeks before. The couple remained silent on the circumstances of the crash to the company, as did the second officer, who was not on the bridge at the time of the grounding, on advice of their legal counsel.

The two officers responsible for navigation at the time, Second Officer Karl Lilgert and Fourth Officer Kevin Hilton, were suspended and subsequently fired for doing so. The BC Ferries Maritime Worker Union launched a grievance to the suspension. The grievance was turned down at the Arbitration level, then the BC Labour Relations Board level, and finally at the BC Supreme Court level.

This recent ruling, reported on widely in the media, determined that the public interest in the case should have taken a priority, and all the juicy details of the going ons on the bridge should have been reported to the company so they take appropriate steps in preventing such an accident in the future.

I am sure our resident legal eagle and Advocate columnist, Darren Williams, will provide some insight on this topic, in the near future, and what that means for us all, working on ships that are involved in accidents. How far will the “public interest” reach into our ability to protect our legal rights and save our necks from a mob looking for a public lynching or salacious gossip?

The article here described the circumstance of the ruling further. The court room drama will continue, I am sure, as several lawsuits are pending, not to mention there is still an ongoing criminal investigation by the RCMP.

For more post on the sinking of BC Ferries’ Queen of the North, click here.

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