Canada's NDP


March 12th, 2021

Statement on twelfth anniversary of the crash of Cougar Flight 491

Today marks the twelfth anniversary of the last flight of Cougar Helicopter 491 and the crash, killing 17 offshore workers on their way to work in our oil industry.

We must remember this tragic loss of life and the families affected, but also honour their memory by challenging government on the failure to rigorously follow through on safety requirements for the offshore.

One of the final recommendations of Justice Wells’ inquiry into the disaster was that an independent offshore safety regulator be appointed, and an advisory council be established.

We do not have an independent safety regulator and 6 years after legislation was passed to create a federal-provincial Offshore Occupational Health and Safety Advisory Council - one has not been appointed. This Council is to include worker representatives as well as industry and government.

Even more worrisome is that the interim regulations which protect offshore workers have been allowed to lapse, with no permanent regulations in place.

It has been six years since the federal government has been tasked with the creation of new offshore health and safety regulations. There original deadline was December 2019. An extension was granted by legislation to December 31, 2020 and the work still has not been completed. There is no excuse for allowing these regulations to lapse.

I am deeply concerned that nothing is currently in place and that offshore workers are left without protection. I am calling on the federal government to ensure that these regulations are completed as soon as possible and that there be no delay in getting this work through the House of Commons.

To quote Justice Wells: "Safety should never, ever be taken for granted. Oil operators are going further afield into deeper and more dangerous waters. Therefore, the emphasis on safety has to be absolutely top-notch."

In tribute today we remember their names:

Thomas Anwyll, Peter Breen, Gary Corbett, Matthew Davis, Wade Drake, Wade Duggan, Corey Eddy, Keith Escott, Colin Henley, Timothy Lanouette, Kenneth MacRae, Allison Maher, Greg Morris, Derrick Mullowney, Burch Nash, John Pelley, Paul Pike, and one survivor, Robert Decker.

Worker’s safety is a sacred trust, and we must never fail to be vigilant.