On Thursday October 11, Dougald Lamont called, once again, for a public inquiry into the death of David Fifi and the working conditions that led to it. David Fifi died while he was in Thompson and working on the Vale smelter. It took many years for his wife, Lila Fifi, to get basic information as to what happened. It is time for a full public inquiry into why Lila Fifi was unable to get this information sooner, and into the working conditions that led to the death of David Fifi.
Request for Public Inquiry
Mr. Dougald Lamont (Leader of the Second Opposition): Madam Speaker, 10 years ago David Fifi, a 48-year-old boilermaker, died when he was working for Comstock at the Inco Vale smelter site in Thompson. His widow, Lila, is here in the gallery, with her family, and has been fighting for answers since his death 10 years ago.
This August, she finally received the answer she'd been fighting for. In a review of David's case by Manitoba's former Chief Medical Examiner, Dr. Peter Markesteyn, it was–Dr. Markesteyn said that David likely died as a result of exposure to toxic gases at his work site.
In the documents that were relchanges to eased, it's clear that David and his co-workers were gassed repeatedly, safety equipment didn't work and their pleas for help were ignored.
A few weeks ago, I sent the Minister of Justice (Mr. Cullen) a letter requesting an inquiry into the death of David Fifi and the safety issues at the Vale site. I've yet to receive a response.
I ask the Premier (Mr. Pallister): Will he direct the Minister of Justice to open a public inquiry today?
Hon. Blaine Pedersen (Minister of Growth, Enterprise and Trade): Madam Speaker, any time a Manitoban passes away, it's our sympathies to the family and express our empathy for a loss of life. It's always tragic.
In this particular case, this is a matter for the Workers Compensation Board and the current chief medical officer. If the member actually has more information he should be sharing it with the chief medical officer. We will not interfere politically in this matter.
Madam Speaker: The honourable Leader of the Second Opposition, on a supplementary question.
Mr. Lamont: For eight years the NDP government refused to release reports around David's death. I'd like to quote a co-worker of David, from the–from these reports: Starting at about October 26th: I was working on the 204 duct line with David Fifi and we were getting constantly gassed. The gas cuts right through your respirator, so no matter how you try to protect yourself, you can't. That's the week that David Fifi, myself and others all started to feel sick. We're not provided enough gas 'monistors'–monitors, because more often than not, we did not have enough. It's pretty sad that someone had to die before they'll look at the problem. End quote.
This witness statement, along with many others, were concealed from David's family for eight years, and now many of them are from statements from David's co-workers who are dead. They're not available to testify.
If this government truly wants to show it's any different than the one it replaced, they should immediately open an inquiry.
I will ask the Minister of Justice: Will he show the Fifi family the respect they deserve by meeting with her today to discuss David's case?
Mr. Pedersen: Madam Speaker, contrary to what the member has said, it was actually this government that did release all the relevant information to the family. We saw no reason to hold that information back and, again, I would just urge the member, if he actually has more pertinent information about this he should be contacting the chief medical officer and working with Workers Compensation Board.
Madam Speaker: The honourable Leader of the Second Opposition, on a final supplementary.
Mr. Lamont: Madam Speaker, the government didnot release–has continued to withhold information and it's still dribbling out information because it controls all the information on David Fifi's file. Reports from David co-workers show that all workers suffered from exposure. Fifty–over 50 per cent became sick and there were three deaths among the workers. This is not a single Workers Compensation Board case.
The Workers Compensation Board ignored the case for years and has only just reopened the case.
Equipment was described as not being up to code. Workers wore half-masks which didn't protect adequately against exposure. Communication equipment was also described as being substandard, either broken or absent entirely.
These are not issues for the Workers Compensation Board. They're issues for a public inquiry. We need answers on how this situation became so dangerous and how it was ignored and covered up for so long.
It's time for the Manitoba government to stand up for David Fifi. This is not just a question about finding answers; it's a question of finding justice.
Will this government do the right thing by calling a public inquiry into the death of David Fifi?
Mr. Pedersen: Again, Madam Speaker, in a letter dated September 18, 2018, from the Minister of Justice department, they are saying that–to Mrs. Fifi that she is now in possession of all documents in the file from the office of the Chief Medical Examiner respecting her husband's death and there was enclosures in this.
Again, this is–the member should be–the member is, unfortunately, trying to politicize this issue. He should be taking–if they have any new evidence here they should be taking it–and even the current evidence that's out there–he should be discussing it with the chief medical officer, not trying to politicize this issue.