“A desk is a dangerous place from which to view the world.” ~ John Le Carre

Wise words for many policy makers who often seem to demonstrate a lack of empathy and understanding of how the real world works for the average person, perhaps because they spend more time behind their desk than out and about connecting with real people

There will be no Duel column next Monday, so I’ll be taking a rest until after the Family day holiday and will be back with a couple of stories,one involving Kiewit- again- next week.

However, today let me share with you this story from Sam Cooper, which serves as a good pre-curser for my story next week.


Vancouver Island RCMP have reopened a high-profile workplace death case that occurred six years ago, investigating under a rarely prosecuted criminal law.

In February 2009, 24-year-old Sam Fitzpatrick was crushed to death by a large boulder while completing a work assignment on a Toba Inlet mountainside. Arlen Fitzpatrick, who worked on site, saw his older brother die.

Unsatisfied with the results of a WorkSafe B.C. probe, their father Brian Fitzpatrick has for years argued that the employer, Omaha-based construction giant Kiewit, is criminally responsible.

He said Thursday that after months of contact with the RCMP, the force recently informed him a fresh investigation is under way.

Great news, and timely considering the recent finding in Washington State for ‘willful and serious safety violations” that put the lives of workers into danger.


See you soon,and enjoy your long weekend here in BC ( this long weekend might be the only real legacy of Premier Clark that’s turned out well!)

34 thoughts on ““A desk is a dangerous place from which to view the world.” ~ John Le Carre

  1. … RCMP’s Island District General Investigation Section is probing Sam Fitzpatrick’s death under Bill C-45, a 2004 law stemming from a mining disaster.

    The mining disaster …. Westray mine is C-45 which is better known in legal circles as Criminal Code 217.1

    Duty of persons directing work

    217.1 Every one who undertakes, or has the authority, to direct how another person does work or performs a task is under a legal duty to take reasonable steps to prevent bodily harm to that person, or any other person, arising from that work or task.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. well that’s because the only people who care when workers die, is their friends and family. Not all have the “stick to it” that the Fitzpatricks have. I have read about this family and the death of their son. I hope they achieve justice.

        Since 2001 the WCB/Work Dangerous B.C. and the government have done little to nothing to protect workers. All they are interested in is providing tax breaks for corporations, which result in workers paying more taxes. Just waiting for another mill to explode one of these days. IT’ll be another nice photo-op for the premier of photo-ops and queen of the “sparkle ponies”. the current crop of MLAs in Victoria are so out of touch with real life in B.C. they think its o.k. to have an annual $12,000 housing allowance, with out the requirement of receipts, while many in the province don’t even make that much money.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Bloggers seem to be the watchmen .Not opposition or media?Oversight and checks and balances gutted a long time ago .If some remain getting bypassed?BCUC?


        1. It’s hard for the opposition to be taken seriously at all, when they bash the premier and Liberals on files like the LNG Tax regime…. and then vote in favour of it.

          Or issue press releases talking about how many BC’ers are having a very hard time making ends meet,clawbacks that hurt the ones who need it most, how there isnt any money left…. but then officially support a YES vote in the transit tax plebscite. Oh and wait, they bash Translink and the gov for this mess too… but still encourage a yes vote.

          Story still coming peeps, just waiting for that pertinent info.


  2. I would like to return to the title of your blog, “A desk is a dangerous place from which….”.

    That is the point I continually make about the urban perspective. The government, the corporations, our institutions all have their head offices in Vancouver/Victoria…which is fine…..for the bulk of people who live here (kind of).

    But just as Ottawa/Toronto is disconnected from Vancouver so is Vancouver disconnected from the rest of the province.

    So is the urbanite disconnected from the hick.

    More to the point, the people making the decisions at their insulated and temperature controlled, security-guarded desk are NOT connected to the environment, the fish, the forest or even the great outdoors unless it is a long weekend at a time-share in Whistler.

    Best example of this madness is that 95% of the bureaucrats in the Dept of Fisheries work in the downtowns and the vast majority of them work in Ottawa. There are no fisheries patrol officers anymore. None with boats who go out on water, anyway. And yes, this is on-topic. Policy wonks need to get their heads to a place where the sun DOES shine.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. The Liberals have always catered to big business. It is corporations that run the province using the Liberals as their puppets.

    This company will not be found guilty of Sam Fitzpatrick’s death. Profit before people. Not even our children’s educations matter to right wing zealots, hence the case of class size and composition being appealed to the Supreme Court for the third time because the government has argued that they cannot afford to give our kids better learning conditions. This government does not use a moral compass to guide their decision making. Heck, MLA Marc Dalton recently cashed a BCTF cheque that was mistakenly sent to him. He said he felt it was owed to him because he was still teaching when his government stripped the contract that removed class size and composition protections. Check it out: http://www.mapleridgenews.com/news/290957801.html?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Yes, the government is sending out the wrong message as always. They seem to think it is ok to ignore problems but are the first to complain and take action when things aren’t going their way.
    There are too many examples of what should have been done but hasn’t. Hopefully, the RCMP case against Kiewit will make some progress and a guilty verdict be found – along with appropriate penalties.
    We have so many workplace cases of workplace abuse/blindness that it is very disturbing to think that more people will suffer. The Mt. Polly mine dam – you can bet your bottom dollar that Imperial Metals knew what was happening, but still raised the water level behind the dam – risking everything downstream.
    Unfortunately, our non graduated Sorbonne undergrad premier Christy Clark is bought and paid for by the corporations and will do nothing of any consequence. We will just get the “deer in the headlights” look, meaningless rhetoric and another photo op.
    Laila, I hope you manage to do a good one on Kiewit – who knows, maybe something good might come out of it.



  5. Anyone here in Aus is aghast at the Mt. Polley verdict. Not that it couldn’t happen here, but they are apparently much more environmentally concious. They’re still mining coal though. Looking forward to your Kiewit article.


  6. I have noticed over the past 5 years or so a new strategy developed by the private sector.
    ie; Putting the onus of workplace safety on the workers backs.
    Need to change a light bulb? A 5 minute job in the “old” unsafe workplace.
    No more.
    If you work for SNC Lavalin you better go through the “Risk Check” procedures first…..
    First you must look at the work area and assess any risks involved in the work. ie, fall hazard, electrocution, broken glass, eye protection, etc.etc.etc.
    Then you must fill out a Risk Check assessment form and explain how YOU will perform the job safely.
    Then you can change the light bulb.
    That 5 minute job is now 20 – 30 mintues.
    And govt wonks wonder why Canadain workers productivity levels have dropped…..
    Oh, and if you were to get injured while changing that light…..obviously you didnt assess the safety issues properly OR you ignored your own assessment.
    The onus is on YOU the worker not your employer who is yelling at you because you dont complete all your daily assignments. Hmmmmmm.

    Risk Check brought to you by a former WCB employee who saw a “need” and filled it.


    Unfortunately the paperpushers and beaurocrats became involved and this has turned into another time eating nightmare for the lowly peons that are forced to suffer through it daily.


    1. A friend who worked at WorkSafe told me this story: Some doofus determined that pencils sitting in a cup on a desk – points up – were a danger, and so were coat-trees, so the Richmond office banned both. For the longest time, coats were left folded on the floor until someone tripped on them (on their way to the pencil sharpener?). WorkSafe, it seems is a physically safe place to work but the staff hate the management and stress leaves and permanent disability leaves are epidemic. WorkSafe is reputedly toxic.


      1. Interesting WCB story.
        Here’s mine.
        Several years ago a friend of mine was involved with some renovations at the Richmond WCB head office.
        Safety Safety Safety was the order of the day. None of the contractors dared do anything “illegal” or even remotely “unsafe”. Bored WCB inspectors were constantly pestering them for minor infractions.
        The renovation completion date was met with hours to spare. The cleaners were almost done their final construction clean before the movers arrived Saturday morning.
        Thats when disaster struck. Heavy rains caused the sewage system to overflow and raw sewage backed up through the floor drains. Floors flooded, carpets soaked, shit, literally…. hit the fans.
        The WCB person overseeing the renos realized that if his staff knew that the new carpet was even remotely impregnated with feces (or the new 21st century office whine …..MOULD !)
        They would walk.
        So….discretion being the better part of valor.
        He swore the contractors and subcontractors to secrecy and had the same janitors from the construction company fix/clean everything. ( same PO… no questions asked) The cleaning contractor told the WCB person. “The ONLY” way we’re getting this place cleaned up before Monday morning is if you and your “safety inspectors” F-off !”

        Done. They cleared out.

        WCB …..do as say……not as I do.
        Oh, and dont forget to send us your monthly stipend, we need all the cash we can get to pay for our hard working staff off on “stress leave”………….


        1. and the staff that take “stress leave” in the private sector seem to be inordinately from the Human Resources Dept……
          Perhaps because they know how to “milk” the system.?

          It only works for a while.
          Ive applied for jobs where one of the first questions in an employment interview is, ” Have you ever taken Stress Leave?”

          Canada’s workers ….formerly known as “Drawers of water, Hewers of wood”. To be updated in the 21st century to ” Drawers of Disability, Hewers of Insurance”
          This is our country and it makes us proud……..


  7. Off topic.
    Anyone notice the mudslide on the newly constructed road in North Van by the coal and grain terminals? Saw two engineers in their pretty orange safety vests gawking at it on Thursday afternoon in the rain.
    And its been raining ever since.
    I watched them build that 50 foot retaining wall and the upper road with much trepidation. Parts of it were bulging out DURING construction.
    And what Ive seen since doesnt give me a warm fuzzy feeling.


    1. Interesting that you mention that…was speaking with a friend on the North shore recently who said the same thing, that the boards used to frame out and hold the wire in place were moving all over during construction.Time for me to get over that way with some industry friends. If anyone has photos, please email them to me, confidentially.

      Likewise, if you know someone, or are working on that project personally and have some info to share confidentially,get in touch. I’ve been hearing concerns from several people on these walls.


  8. See you soon,and enjoy your long weekend here in BC ( this long weekend might be the only real legacy of Premier Clark that’s turned out well!)

    On this I do disagree with you, nothing that clark has done has turned out well. This Clark photo-op for family day is just that, another photo-op but one that severely impacts people (many of them women with children) who earn far below a livable wage which last I read was around $20.00 per hour and includes most of the working people. The BC Liars claw back all monies fathers pay to support their children. There are approximately 965 children (I believe it’s many, many more than that now) living in absolute poverty in BC and many not able to attend school and not able to learn because of the unaffordability of mom’s to feed their children nourishing food and many times no food at all. For the parents of these kids to miss even one day of work means even less for them and their kids. I believe it was on 134A where a little 5 year old boy with his mom was eating a sandwich, with tears streaming down his face looking up at someone and saying “sometimes I get really hungry”. I will never ever forget the look and tears on this little guy’s face and just how hungry he was.This food as you know and wrote about was supplied by those nice people who cooked and fed the poor before the city shut ‘er down.

    clark and her families first BS should read clark and her corporate liberal donating pigs first.


    1. While I agree that the new “Family Day” longweekend is a holiday that was long overdue. The Liberal Party under Clark waited until a few months before their election to announce and implement this newest holiday. Nothing like a little vote pandering.
      However, in true incompetant Liberal fashion, they were either too stupid or too incompetant to put it on the same Monday as the rest of the Provinces that recognize it. ie the 3rd Monday of the month instead of the 2nd Monday.
      Eventually a Premier with an ounce of intelligence will see the error of this ridiculous faux pas and correct it.
      I wont hold my breath waiting to see if the Clark govt admits to this error, they’re too arrogant to admit they were wrong.


        1. Hmmmmmm, Kweit shovelled 1 million dollars in “salary and benefits” in two years to an Innu “partner” . All this in a village with high unemployment.
          Seems like they’ve learned the Govt contract “biz” faster than SNC…………….

          Nice to see our tax dollars well spent…….again.


        2. Kiewit S2S, BC Supreme Court, 2006

          [16] A concession agreement is given statutory recognition by the Transportation Act and the Transportation Investment Act. Section 3 of the Transportation Act authorizes the Minister of Transportation to enter into contracts for transportation-related activity but does not circumscribe the Minister’s power to contract. Section 3 of the Transportation Investment Act directs that a concession agreement must contain certain provisions. The appellants rely on s. 3(f) which states:

          3 A concession agreement must

          (f) require the concessionaire, when performing the concessionaire’s obligations or exercising the concessionaire’s rights in relation to the concession highway, to meet or exceed the standards applicable to a comparable public highway, or, if higher standards are referred to in the concession agreement, meet or exceed those specified standards, including, without limiting this, design, construction, safety, maintenance and signage standards…

          If the Sea to Sky highway is falling apart…….


        3. You are a gem,have I ever told you that?

          Just a bit of delay on this post as I wait on some pertinent information folks. Holiday here in BC set this back a bit Monday.


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