News

Some WorkSafe BC evidence from Langley mushroom farm tragedy could not be used

A-1 Mushroom Substratum Ltd. owners (left to right) Van Thi Troung, her husband Ha Qua Truong and Thinh Huu Doan pleaded guilty to 10 of 29 charges stemming from the deaths of three mushroom farm workers in South Langley in September, 2008. A recent report by deputy minister to the premier John Dyble into a 2011 Burns Lake sawmill fire points out that some evidence gathered by WorkSafe BC in the mushroom farm case could not be used in court. - Langley Times file photo
A-1 Mushroom Substratum Ltd. owners (left to right) Van Thi Troung, her husband Ha Qua Truong and Thinh Huu Doan pleaded guilty to 10 of 29 charges stemming from the deaths of three mushroom farm workers in South Langley in September, 2008. A recent report by deputy minister to the premier John Dyble into a 2011 Burns Lake sawmill fire points out that some evidence gathered by WorkSafe BC in the mushroom farm case could not be used in court.
— image credit: Langley Times file photo

Some of the evidence uncovered about the death of three men at a Langley mushroom farm could not be used because WorkSafe BC investigators violated the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

A report by deputy minister to the premier John Dyble reveals the WorkSafe investigators who probed the September 2008 A-1 Mushroom Farms deaths ignored a 2002 Supreme Court of Canada decision that ruled anyone who is the target of an investigation that could result in criminal charges has the same rights as someone being questioned by police.

That includes the right to have legal counsel present during questioning, the right against self-incrimination and the right to refuse to turn over evidence without a search warrant.

If a court finds those rights were violated, the evidence can be excluded at trial.

The Dyble report doesn’t specify exactly whose rights were violated during the investigation of the Langley incident that killed three and left two others permanently brain-damaged.

When a pipe burst in a shed used to mix gypsum, chicken manure and water, it released toxic levels of hydrogen sulphide gas that killed farmworkers Ut Tran, Han Pham and Jimmy Chan.

Two men barely survived. Tchen Phan is unable to speak and Michael Phan was left in a coma.

The Dyble report says prosecutors in the Criminal Justice Branch (CJB) determined certain statements obtained by WorkSafe investigators could not be used because they would be declared inadmissible for violating the 2002 Supreme Court ruling.

“ … because of the admissibility concerns [the CJB] would make the charge assessment without reference to the statements,” Dyble wrote.

The report does not say which statements were excluded, or who made them.

Eventually, 29 charges were laid under the Workers Compensation Act and Occupational Health and Safety Regulations against A-1 Mushroom Substratum Ltd., H.V. Truong Ltd. and four people.

The issue of the excluded statements was never raised at trial, because three of the accused pleaded guilty to 10 of 29 charges, including failure to have an occupational health and safety program in place, failure to educate workers about safety, failure to properly supervise workers and failure to make workers aware about confined space hazards.

Charges against a fourth person were dropped as part of the plea bargain.

A judge imposed fines of $350,000 against Van Thi Truong, Ha Qua Truong, Thinh Huu Doan and the companies they operated — A-1 Mushroom Substratum Ltd. and H.V. Truong Ltd.

No jail terms were imposed.

The report says a lawyer for WorkSafe tried to convince the prosecutors to use the excluded statements in August of 2010, but the question was “rendered moot” after the guilty pleas were entered in May, 2011.

Dyble also says the CJB warned WorkSafe about the need to adjust their investigations to get in line with the Supreme Court requirements about four years before the Langley mushroom farming fatalities occurred, in connection with an unnamed “investigative file from 2004.”

The information about the mushroom farm case was included as background in Dyble’s review of the WorkSafe investigation into the January 2012 Babine mill explosion in Burns Lake that killed two people.

In that case, no criminal charges were laid by the CJB because, Dyble said, the WorkSafe investigators failed to abide by the Charter restrictions imposed in 2002.

 

- with files from Black Press

We encourage an open exchange of ideas on this story's topic, but we ask you to follow our guidelines for respecting community standards. Personal attacks, inappropriate language, and off-topic comments may be removed, and comment privileges revoked, per our Terms of Use. Please see our FAQ if you have questions or concerns about using Facebook to comment.

You might like ...

Hunters protest shift favouring non-residents
 
Lack of addiction treatment flagged by crime panel
 
Hunter protest over new regulations to benefit guides fills Langley meeting room
UPDATE: Abbotsford family facing deportation finds sanctuary at Langley church
 
NDP blasts lottery corporation spending
 
Mission district to enforce parking downtown
“Suspicious” Agassiz house fire under investigation
 
Rent controls here to stay, province says
 
Police show solidarity for officer charged with murder

Community Events, December 2014

Add an Event


Read the latest eEdition

Browse the print edition page by page, including stories and ads.

Dec 18 edition online now. Browse the archives.