BC Ferries ordered to reinstate Queen of the North captain
Published Tuesday, March 24, 2009 3:24PM PDT
BC Ferries is to reinstate the captain of the ill-fated Queen of the North ferry this spring after being ordered to do so by WorkSafeBC.
BC Ferries spokesperson Deborah Marshall confirmed that Colin Henthorne had not been at the bridge of one of their ships since the 2006 sinking in which two people died.
"He is not as yet [back at work]. WorkSafeBC has issued the order and we respect the order and will reinstate him soon," said Marshall.
She said Henthorne was not on the bridge when the ferry ran aground on Gil Island near Hartley Bay in northern B.C. and sank on March 22, 2006. Ninety-nine passengers and crew were rescued, but Gerald Foisy and Shirley Rossette of 100 Mile House died. Their bodies have never been recovered.
While Donna Freeman of WorkSafeBC said she could not confirm the identity of the employee, she said the order followed a 2008 decision where WorkSafeBC stated the employer had taken prohibited discriminatory action against the worker contrary to section 151 of the Workers Compensation Act.
Among other things, that section of the Act states that an employer may not take or threaten discriminatory action against a worker with regards to his or her testifying or providing information related to occupational health and safety.
Freeman said the order made to BC Ferries was by no means unique, with 159 such complaints made in 2008, and 133 the previous year.
"We certainly do get these kinds of complaints," she said.
BC Ferries must reinstate Henthorne by May 25, 2009, and try to reach an agreement on compensation it owes for lost wages, benefits and interest since April 15, 2008.
Last year, the Transportation Safety Board issued a report into the sinking, but failed to say who was at fault or why. Several lawsuits were launched but most have been settled out of court, meaning testimony and evidence remains secret.
The Queen of the North's replacement ferry arrived in B.C. from its makers in Germany just two weeks ago.
"We still have not gotten back to normal in terms of our traffic," Steve Smith, a Prince Rupert Hotel Operator, said on the third anniversary of the sinking earlier this week.
Many on the north coast are in disbelief it's been so long and no one's been held accountable.
"Never in my wildest dreams did I think it would take three years to bring this to the light of the courts and I'm very disappointed. I think it's got to bring some closure to the families. I mean, at the end of the day, two people died," said Smith
There is still the possibility of criminal charges against two crew members, but so far no charges have been laid.