Labour Media release

Media Release from NS Federation of Labour Danny Cavanagh – 29th Anniversary of Westray

Workers are still dying for a living

May 9 will mark the 29th anniversary of the Westray disaster in Nova Scotia, when an underground methane explosion killed 26 coal miners in 1992. Owned and operated by Curragh Resources, the Westray Coal Mine opened in September 1991, but closed eight months later when the methane explosion killed 26 miners working underground at the time.

March 31, 2004 was when Bill C-45 the Westray Bill came into force. The Bill amended the Criminal Code to impose penalties on corporations and managers for violations causing workplace injuries or death.

Nova Scotia Federation of Labour President Danny Cavanagh says the trouble is, even while the federal government promised to do more, there is uneven and weak enforcement of Westray and uneven enforcement of workplace health and safety regulations designed to keep workers safe.

“There must be strong consequences for failure to uphold this duty – or we will continue to mourn the dead,” says Cavanagh.

Tragically, thousands of workers in Canada, every year, have their lives changed because of a major injury while hundreds more lose their lives because of their work.

“No job is worth dying for. These are not accidents and they can be prevented. It’s important to remember that Canada still has one of the highest rates of workplace deaths in the industrialized world and even one death is still one too many.

“Nothing can bring back those who have died but a message has to be sent that cutting corners on health and safety and employees being killed is not acceptable. If and when an employer willfully neglects health and safety, knowing that someone can be injured or killed, they should be held criminally responsible,” says Cavanagh.

“On April 28 we marked the day of Mourning for workers injured or killed at work. In 2020 we lost 32 workers.

“We will never stop fighting for every worker to have a safe workplace,” says Cavanagh.

Danny Cavanagh

Danny Cavanagh is president of the Nova Scotia Federation of Labour


The 26 miners who died in the Westray Mine explosion:

·       John Thomas Bates, 56

·       Larry Arthur Bell, 25

·       Bennie Joseph Benoit, 42

·       Wayne Michael Conway, 38

·       Ferris Todd Dewan, 35

·       Adonis J. Dollimont ,36

·       Robert Steven Doyle, 22

·       Remi Joseph Drolet , 38

·       Roy Edward Feltmate, 33

·       Charles Robert Fraser ,29

·       Myles Danial Gillis, 32

·       John Philip Halloran, 33

·       Randolph Brian House,27

·       Trevor Martian Jahn, 36

·       Laurence Elwyn James, 34

·       Eugene W. Johnson, 33

·       Stephen Paul Lilley, 40

·       Micheal Frederick MacKay ,38

·       Angus Joseph MacNeil, 39

·       Glenn David Martin, 35

·       Harry Alliston McCallum, 41

·       Eric Earl McIsaac, 38

·       George James Munroe, 38

·       Danny James Poplar, 39

·       Romeo Andrew Short, 35

·       Peter Francis Vickers, 38