Supreme Court Rules on Giant Mine Dispute

February 19, 2010, 9:42 AM EST


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The Supreme Court of Canada's ruling with respect to the law suit concerning the 1992 Giant Mine explosion in Yellowknife makes several important clarifications on issues involving union status and union liability for members' actions during a labour dispute. The explosion took nine lives.

The Court released a ruling February 18 that overturned a multi-million dollar trial court award for the widows of nine replacement workers who were killed by an underground explosion. In 1995 striking miner Roger Warren was convicted of nine counts of murder and is serving a life sentence.

In 2004, the lower court ordered the Government of the Northwest Territories, security company Pinkerton's of Canada and the CAW to pay over $18 million in compensation to the widows. An appeal court overturned that decision and the award. The case was then appealed to the Supreme Court.

CAW Legal Department director Lewis Gottheil said the detailed ruling by the Supreme Court clarifies several important points of law regarding national unions, local unions and the actions of members. This ruling has important implications that apply across the labour movement in Canada, Gottheil said.

"The court has clarified that a national union and a local union are distinct legal entities which are not generally liable at law for the actions of the other," Gottheil said.

"Also the Supreme Court has indicated that the legal concept of vicarious liability doesn't apply to unions in a situation where a "rogue" member in the course of a labour dispute commits an unlawful act," said Gottheil.  "In other words, the fact that Roger Warren was a unionized worker on strike did not make his union responsible for the actions he took."

To read the full Supreme Court ruling online go to http://csc.lexum.umontreal.ca/en/index.html and read the citation for Fullowka v. Pinkerton's of Canada Ltd

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