J.D. Irving Ltd. fined in death of worker at Valley, N.S., sawmill

J.D. Irving Ltd. was fined $89,500 in penalties Tuesday for a 2016 workplace accident that killed a Bible Hill man on the job at its lumber mill in Valley, N.S.

Truro provincial court Judge Alain J. Bégin also ordered Irving to pay $55,000 to set up a bursary in the victim Chad Smith’s name for students in the Nova Scotia Community College’s occupational health and safety program.

“Obviously, the $89,500 is meant to punish Irving and to send a message that there are serious consequences to these offences,” Crown attorney Alex Keaveny said in an interview. “But the bursary is also meant to remind students studying in the … program of why they’re studying there  — who are they working to protect?”

The sentence was a joint recommendation by the Crown and defence.

Alex Keaveny is Nova Scotia’s first Crown attorney for workplace health and safety prosecutions. (Craig Paisley/CBC)

According to an agreed statement of facts that Keaveny read in court, Smith, 28, was killed on June 27, 2016 when he was struck by a front-end loader while crossing a bridge for vehicles and pedestrians at the sawmill.

The accident happened just moments after he arrived at work. He died at the scene

Guilty plea entered

The case was set to go to trial in May. But about a week before the trial, Irving agreed to plead guilty to one count of violating the Occupational Health and Safety Act that required them to follow the Canadian Standards Association’s rules on lift-truck usage.

“Basically, the standard requires that when at all possible, pedestrians and these vehicles have to be physically separate from each other,” Keaveny said. “And where it’s impossible to keep them physically separate, there have to be clear rules both for the operation of the motorists and for the movement of pedestrians.”

On June 27, 2016, Colchester RCMP responded to the industrial accident at the mill just after 6 p.m.

Robert (Bob) Sellers, Smith’s co-worker, was operating the loader that struck Smith. Sellers was moving bundles of green wood from one side of the yard to another.

Neither Sellers nor another loader operator who had also crossed over the bridge a minute earlier saw Smith, court heard.

Sellers found Smith after the incident and immediately yelled for help. His co-workers attempted first aid and called 911.

Smith’s death was preventable

Both Sellers and Smith were following company policy, Keaveny said.

“Judge Bégin made of a point of saying that Chad Smith’s death was preventable, and that neither Chad Smith nor Bob Sellers were at fault for Chad’s death — it was a failing by J.D. Irving,” Keaveny said.

At the time of the incident, the yard and bridge did not have any barriers to separate pedestrians and lift-trucks anywhere on the site. There were no signs requiring lift-trucks to stop at all intersections and there were no marked crosswalks.

Irving brought in changes

Following Smith’s death, J.D. Irving Ltd. revamped its site walk zone policy and spent more than $100,000 on site improvements.

They included:

• Additional safety training.

• A new pedestrians-only bridge.

• Stop signs installed at the bridge.

• New barriers installed to separate vehicle traffic and pedestrians.

“Chad Smith was a valued employee and friend to so many at the sawmill,” said Mary Keith, a spokeswoman for the company.

“Our thoughts remain with his family. We respect the verdict of the court. In the time that has passed since this tragedy we have worked together as a team to improve workplace safety at the mill for the well-being of all.”

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Two people charged after drug search in Dartmouth

A man and a woman face charges after police obtained a warrant and conducted a drug search earlier today in Dartmouth. At approximately 1:35 p.m., investigators in the Special Enforcement Section of the Integrated Criminal Investigation Divisionconducted a search at the Higher Living Wellness Centre at 219A Wyse Road in Dartmouth. Officers seized a quantity of cannabis resin, cannabis edibles …

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Founded by former slaves, Beechville becomes provincial heritage site

Beechville, N.S., a Halifax-area community founded by black families in the early 1800s, is now a provincial heritage site.

The community was settled by black families who came to what was then British soil to escape slavery in the United States.

One of the reasons for the designation is the existence of records attesting to the founding of the settlement, Communities, Culture and Heritage Minister Tony Ince said Tuesday at the Beechville Baptist Church.

“It’s one of the few places in the province that has actual plots, land that has evidence of folks coming here around 1812, between 1812 and 1816 as refugees coming up from the U.S.,” he said.

The Baptist church, a baptismal path to Lovett Lake, a graveyard and former school are all considered historically important. It hasn’t yet been decided where the plaque to indicate the heritage designation will be placed.

Residents were at the Beechville Baptist Church to hear about the province’s decision to designate Beechville as a provincial heritage site. (CBC)

The recognition is not expected to affect plans for a development on the land adjacent to the church.

Armco Capital wants to build close to 1,300 homes as well as offices and stores between the Bayers Lake Business Park and Lovett Lake, located just north of St. Margarets Bay Road.

The company has said it plans to transfer ownership of part of that land to the church, to create space between the development and the heart of Beechville.

Danielle Wright-Jackson of the Beechville Community Development Association has lived in the community since she was seven-years-old and said the community has shrunk over the years.

A choir of young people perform at Tuesday’s announcement in Beechville, N.S. (CBC)

Residents don’t want to see the significance of their community eroded any further, she said.

“Historically, Beechville used to run from the Armdale Rotary out to Five Islands Lake. Currently now, if you blink, you drive through Beechville. So we are actively staying involved with the developers as well as HRM planners to ensure the community has a relevant voice and is well informed of any movement that is taking place.”

She said the heritage designation “is a step in the right direction of righting some of the wrongs.”

Wright-Jackson hopes there will be a halt to any development plans that would see current and future residents, especially descendants of the founders, pushed out and being unable to afford to live in the area.

Danielle Wright-Jackson, a member of the Beechville Community Development Association, says it is important that any development in the area allows for long-time residents and others to be able to continue to live there. (CBC)

“Basically what we want … is if the development does go forward, to make it attainable. We have many residents and descendants who would like to actually reside in Beechville and currently, there’s not adequate housing for that,” she said.

“And most importantly, there’s the pricing, the pricing of it is so steep. So we feel our lands were given to us initially because they were unsettled, they were rocky, they were watery, not well sought-after lands.”

Now that Beechville is a desirable site to developers, “we are being cut out … we’re very concerned that people who want to retire, that our seniors have a place to stay in their own community,” she said.

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Nova Scotia teen wins international award for river cleanup work

One of province’s youngest environmental advocates, Stella Bowles is getting international recognition for her work to protect Nova Scotia waterways.

Bowles, 14, won first place in her age group at this year’s International Young Eco-Hero Awards.

She is the only Canadian on the international list of recipients who come from nine different countries. 

“It feels really good to be recognized. It helps spread my message as well,” Bowles said. 

Stella Bowles stands next to the LaHave River with part of her sampling gear. (Emma Davie/CBC)

Her science project at age 11 convinced three levels of government to pledge over $15 million to help clean up the LaHave River on Nova Scotia’s South Shore. 

When Bowles tested the river in the fall of 2015, there were 600 straight pipes dumping sewage directly into the water.

Work to swap out straight pipes for septic systems that include septic tanks, pump chamber, sand filters and drain fields began this spring. It’s expected 75 to 100 of the pipes will be replaced by the end of 2018 with the rest completed by 2023.

Bowles has been using grant money she received for her project to inspire other children in Nova Scotia. She has been running workshops to teach them how to test their waterways and encourage them to get involved in clean water work.

She also has a new book, My River: Cleaning up the LaHave River, that comes out in September outlining her journey. She hopes her book will become part of school curriculums in Nova Scotia one day.

“I hope it can show them that your age shouldn’t put a limit on what you can do,” said Bowles. “Age is just a number.”

But she doesn’t want to stop there, she thinks her generation has a lot of work to do.

Bowles said she hopes her story can inspire other youth to ask questions and to be proactive in creating environmental change.

Looking forward, Bowles said she wants to work with the provincial government to enforce the elimination of illegal straight pipes.

Stella Bowles shows a group of children in Wolfville, N.S., how to test their local waterways. (Submitted by Andrea Conrad)

The International Young Eco-Hero Awards recognize a wide-range of environmental projects.

They include everything from creating a composting program to starting an “elefriendly bus” which safely transports students around elephant areas.

The awards are presented by Action for Nature, an international non-profit organization based in California, that encourages young people to take action to better their environments.

The 18 recipients, ages eight to 16, will receive their awards at the end of August.

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Mother of man with disability testifies in favour of large capacity residences

A woman whose son lives in a facility for people with disabilities defended larger centres in her testimony Tuesday at a human rights hearing where the complainants are arguing for access to smaller homes.

Betty Rich, the mother of a resident of the Quest Regional Rehabilitation Centre in Lower Sackville, N.S., says the centre with 24 residents is what she wants for her 50-year-old son Joey Rich.

Betty Rich, who was called as a government witness, says she believes the residents of Quest are safer there, and she would prefer her son continue to live there rather than be moved to a small options home.

Two people with intellectual disabilities, Beth MacLean and Joseph Delaney, have alleged the Department of Community Services violated the Human Rights Act by forcing them to remain at the Emerald Hall psychiatric ward in Halifax for more than a decade, even though they had been medically discharged.

The human rights complaint, laid in 2014 argued they should have been provided housing in a “small options” home after psychiatrists medically discharged them.

The province’s lawyers argue that while the province supports the principle of community-based care, it’s not a human right as defined in the legislation.

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