Aurora pleads ‘not guilty’ in bear mauling

Aurora Geosciences is going to fight five negligence charges filed under the Yukon’s Occupational Health and Safety Act.

Aurora Geosciences is going to fight five negligence charges filed under the Yukon’s Occupational Health and Safety Act.

The charges stem from a bear mauling last year.

Twenty-eight year-old Jean-Francois Page was flagging land for Aurora on April 28, 2006. He wandered too close to two grizzly cubs.

Their mother attacked; Page died soon after.

“The radio message he sent to his co-worker suggests that he stayed calm and that he tried to pacify the bear, as his handout notes recommended,” his Quebec-based family wrote in a June 1 letter to the Yukon News.

Page had been trained to manage bear encounters.

On July 17, the exploration company that sent him into the bush that fateful day appeared in court to answer the five charges.

“My instructions from Aurora are to enter not guilty pleas to all charges,” said lawyer Keith Parkkari.

Aurora Geosciences vice-president Mike Power appeared on behalf of the company, wearing a black suit and maroon tie and a full but trim black beard.

Lead prosecutor for the Crown Zeb Brown did not appear.

The five charges laid on April 25th reference sections 3 and 7 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

The charges allege that Aurora Geosciences failed to properly train, equip, and supervise Page. Furthermore, the charges state that Page was not directed to follow proper work procedures, and that the company placed him in an unsafe situation.

Neither the Yukon Workers Compensation Health and Safety Board’s report, which forms the basis of the charges, nor the coroner’s report have been publicly released.

The territory’s chief coroner, Sharon Hanley, previously told the Yukon News that she did not want to release her findings while the case was in progress.

If the case dragged on too long she might change her mind, she added.

Hanley is out of the office this week.

Page’s family has made it clear on several occasions that they do not blame Aurora Geosciences for his death.

They would like to see a multi-stakeholder review of preventative and emergency measures for workers in the bush.

“The forest is a very special workplace and the laws that oversee it are still too evasive,” Page’s family wrote.

The seven-day trial for Aurora Geosciences is set to begin November 15.

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