Sawmill Employees Needed a Whistleblower Hotline

Posted by Amanda Nieweler

on May 9, 2014

stock photo sign good and bad choice

Employees of Western Forest Products, on Vancouver Island, headed back to work this week, after a man armed with a shotgun stormed the company’s Nanaimo sawmill on April 30, and fatally shot two workers, and wounded two others.

Perhaps emotions started to turn when some people were laid off during a major restructuring of the organization’s operations starting in 2008.

However, most Canadians will tell you that workplace shootings are supposed to happen in other, distant places, not in a small, peaceful community on Vancouver Island. Unfortunately, the evidence states otherwise. While workplace gun deaths are indeed more prevalent in the US, Canada is no saint itself. A Statistics Canada study based on a 2004 survey found 17 per cent of all self-reported violent victimization that year happened in the workplace. There were 356,000 violent acts in the 10 provinces, including sexual assault, robbery and physical assault.

Experts in the field say even that number underrepresents the problem, since many assaults go unreported. Also, StatsCan uses a fairly narrow definition of violence, says a specialist in workplace violence. Canada defines violence much more broadly, including bullying and harassment behaviours and threatening behaviours

Typically, the Canadian way is “we won’t kill you, but we’ll just make your life a living hell by harassing and intimidating you on the job.”

Unfortunately, there are some exceptions. Workplace violence resulting in multiple fatalities include:

  • A knifing rampage in February, at an Edmonton Loblaws warehouse. A worker is accused of killing two fellow employees and stabbing four others
  • 2012, armoured car guard Travis Baumgartner killed three fellow guards and wounded a fourth in a robbery gone wrong at the University of Alberta
  • 2002, Dick Anderson was fired from his job with the BC environment ministry in Kamloops, and shot and killed his supervisor and a shop steward before killing himself
  • 1999, Pierre Lebrun, a bullied employee of Ottawa’s OC Transpo, shot and killed four employees in the transit garage before killing himself
  • 1992, Valery Fabricant, a professor at Montreal’s Concordia University, shot and killed four members of the engineering faculty
  • This April, four employees of the Toronto offices of Ceridian Canada, were stabbed, allegedly by a worker about to be fired.

Security at Western Forest has been heightened, and is a good first step in restoring a sense of safety and trust among workers. However, history shows that clues will eventually emerge that might have averted this tragedy. In 99 cases out of 100, research shows that there were different types of warning signs, some that all too often seem oblivious at the time.

Enabling employees to use an anonymous whistleblower hotline to report on any perceived wrongdoing, perception, or warning signs, no matter how small they think they are, could have prevented this tragedy. Could have made the difference between a good choice and a bad choice.

A 24/7/365 hotline can be an organization’s first defence against any type of wrongdoing, or crime, and incidents can be investigated and remedied before tragedy strikes.

We’re almost at the end of the tenth annual Corporate Compliance and Ethics Week.

Waste, fraud and abuse of authority can all be combated by having an independent reporting mechanism that’s available to your employees to report malfeasance. WhistleBlower Security should be one of the first places your employees can go.

eBook: 7 Reasons to Implement a Whistleblower Hotline