Firefighters’ lawyer believes careless driving prosecution abuse; filing Charter claim

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Moments after the crash on the 402. The transport can be seen still jammed against the rescue truck.

A Wyoming firefighter charged after an accident in a snowstorm on the 402 will go to trial while his lawyer claim abuse of the court process.

And several professional associations are offering to help him beat the charge.

Last March, Neil Bain was driving one of two fire trucks on the way to an accident on the highway in the middle of a snowstorm. The firefighters were doing an estimated 40 km per hour in the blinding snow when they were caught up in a multi-vehicle collision.

Bain’s wrist was broken and four other firefighters were injured in the crash.

Bain was charged with careless driving in the accident. That charge was met with anger with the Fire Chief suggesting the charge was politically motivated. Local politicians had been voicing concern about the maintenance along the stretch of highway after a number of multi-vehicle crashes.

Mike Vasey and several associations representing volunteer firefighters also voiced concern about the precedent being set by charging a volunteer while on duty.

The crown and Bain’s lawyer, Ian Bruce, met with the judge for about 40-minutes. Firefighters and Bain were hopeful the charge would be thrown out for lack of evidence. But that wasn’t to be.

Bain, surrounded by about 15 firefighters in uniform and family members, looked shocked when he heard a trial would start Nov. 23.

Bain’s lawyer hasn’t given up on having the charges dropped. He told the judge he would be filing a challenge under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms claiming abuse of the court process.

“Anyone who analyses the facts would say the facts do not support a conviction,” Bruce told The Independent. “There is a strong likelihood the charge will be dismissed, whether that happens after a trial or before remains to be seen.

“We’re asking the court to apply common sense. They know all the evidence. They know there is not going to be a conviction, why go through that process?”

Fire Chief Mike Vasey, who was in court supporting Bain, says the news is disappointing.

“This has been an extreme hardship on the family,” he says noting no other driver was charged in the pile up and another driver who ran into a police cruiser was not charged.

“They stay at home and don’t go out; they don’t go for dinner anymore because it is all people want to talk about,” says Vasey. “Everyone is very supportive…but everyday, you can’t get away from it.”

Vasey says both the Firefighters’ Association of Ontario and the Ontario Fire Chiefs’ Association have expressed a willingness to help with the legal battle. “They want to put their legal teams on it and help out anyway they can because of the huge ramifications of this across the province,” he says.

4 Responses to “Firefighters’ lawyer believes careless driving prosecution abuse; filing Charter claim”

  1. Jeff Kartye

    Are you kidding me? The only one charged? Even being charged at all?? Funny how some people lose perspective and become complacent when it comes to any firefighter’s dedication to their community. This is a joke and should’ve been tossed out immediately. The fact that it wasn’t, makes me puke.

  2. Firefighter

    I agree that the motivation for the action seems to have come from the political machine and not the local police.

    The occupational health and safety act of ontario actually restricts some workers from “refusing work” (section 43) because it is inherently dangerous. Those workers in
    clude police, corrections officers and firefighters.

    That is a significant sign that the government / law is aware of the hazards of the job. So much that in our ultra safe culture it says some types of work involve danger and you can’t easily refuse it. Especially where one considers that the OHSA is a “prevailing” set of laws which means it trumps almost all other acts in the province (section 2, 2).

    Why is this important ?

    Emergency services workers know there work is dangerous, the law restricts there ability to refuse work. That law is a prevailing one. A common danger / hazard would be poor weather.

    Will the provincial government be willing to set out the “conditions” where EMS, FIRE & POLICE units will not be allowed on the road – I’m sure they don’t want that liability.

    The other thing that comes to mind is the crown is supposed to consider if a charge brought before the court serves the public interest. How can anyone look at this and not see a successful prosecution will serve political interests and optics! And, see how it would damage the protection afforded the public.

    I would love to see an investigation into how these charges came about and hopefully uncover the suspected political influence that drive the charges.

    • jason

      Actually the reference you include from the ontario health and saftey act is incorrect there is some aspects even dangerous we may not refuse its kinda why we are called emergency service. The police do have to charge at least 1 person that would be primary cause of chain reaction and thats actually motivated by the insurance companies. Rules of the road apply to all even police who enforce the rules who have started getting punished more and more lately aswell. No one is above the law. Drive smart even if it takes a minute longer. Biggest issue we have is when responding to calls is the adrenaline rush mixed with what information we receive unfortunately affect our thinking. Responding to a call as a volunteer in there personal vehicle they must drive the same speed limit as everyone else on the road only excemptions are emergency vehicles while in performance of there duty but if they cause an accident they are 100% liable. Its never changed since ive been in this field and ive been in it for sometime now.

  3. Firefighters girl

    I wonder if there are any lingering legal actions which are hinging on a claim of poor road maintenance against the province? Would it not be convenient if this firefighter is successfully prosecuted by that same province that they could then point to that fact later in those other cases “well, you know mr _______ even a fire department member driving a fire truck was found to be driving carelessly in poor weather recently. Is it possible that your driving was more to blame for your wreck, damage and losses and not the bad road maintenance”