Bear mauling case could have major fallout

Tuesday, Aurora Geosciences president Gary Vivian and vice-president Mike Power vowed to fight charges of negligence in Territorial Court.

Tuesday, Aurora Geosciences president Gary Vivian and vice-president Mike Power vowed to fight charges of negligence in Territorial Court.

The two Whitehorse men face five charges of negligence following last year’s bear-mauling death of flagger Jean-Francois.

“We plan on defending the charges — to the end of time to be quite honest,” Vivian told reporters.

“We work in a dangerous environment and that’s just part of our business,” he said.

Though the mineral exploration company could have entered a plea on Tuesday, Aurora’s lawyer Keith Parkkari requested a two-week adjournment.

He had not yet received copies of all the Crown’s documents.

Power and Vivian want to put the charges behind them.

“We’re confident that in open court, when all the facts are out and the public and the judge has the opportunity to look at the case, we believe we will be exonerated,” said Power.

On April 28, 2006, Page was attacked by a female grizzly when he unknowingly approached a den housing her two cubs.

“Our first reaction was to get a hold of the family and bring them up, have them go into the bush to basically see what happened to J-F,” said Vivian.

The coroner’s report has not yet been publicly released, but is expected to affirm whether Page died instantly, as is commonly believed.

“It’s a tragic death, I wish it could have been prevented somehow,” said Power.

Page’s death could have been prevented, in the opinion of Yukon Workers’ Compensation Health and Safety Board and Crown prosecutors who took on the case.

The charges laid under sections 3 and 7 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act claim that Jean-Francois Page was given incomplete training and was unaware of the hazards he faced, that he was not properly equipped to defend himself and that he had been placed in an unsafe situation by the company.

Aurora Geosciences contests the notion that its employees are ill-equipped or that its training is sub-par.

“I don’t believe we did anything wrong,” Vivian told reporters.

“There are some things that just … they happen,” Power said.

If found guilty of any of the charges, Aurora’s case could have serious ramifications for any employer operating in bear country.

Power said this case poses a potential threat to the viability of mineral exploration, oil and gas exploration, ecotourism, and government operations in the Yukon.

He insisted that there has been, and always will be, unforeseeable elements encountered by remote workers.

“It is not a controlled workplace, this is the bush,” he said.

Aurora is scheduled to officially enter a plea in court on June 26.

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