Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Queen of the North court case comes to an end without any answers

Financial concerns have led to the end of court proceedings in the case of the sinking of the Queen of the North, as the last remaining family accepted a small payout, which effectively brings to an end the latest efforts to try and find an answer as to the fateful events of that March morning of 2006.

The surprise announcement of last week provided for a number of newspapers to outline how the process had failed the families of Gerald Foisy and Shirley Fosette who are presumed to have perished in the sinking, their bodies have never been recovered.

The end of court proceedings has provided more fodder for those that want a criminal investigation to be increased or a commission of inquiry into the events to be created, to bring final deliberations on the events of the night and a sense of closure for the affected families.

The commission of inquiry route would also provide some answers for British Columbians who have been left in the dark for the most part over many of the events of that night, the criminal investigation would explore the potential for criminal charges that led to the sinking and the deaths of the two passengers.

Monday's Daily News outlined the thoughts of the NDP Ferry critic and North Coast MLA Gary Coons, who has been following the developments over the last three years and continues his call for governmental accountability on the sinking.

It's clear that without such an inquiry questions will always linger about the events on the Queen of the North and the loss of life that stemmed from them, British Columbians will only grow more cynical about the Liberal government and its handling of the ferry corporation, that seemingly hands off policy is not only failing the passengers, but the residents of the province.

More importantly that policy has failed the families of those that were lost and the time to get to the bottom of the incident has long since passed.

Queen of the North settlement infuriates Coons
By George T. Baker
The Daily News
Monday, February 02, 2009
Page one

North Coast MLA and Ferries critic Gary Coons is calling for a judicial inquiry into the sinking of the Queen of the North after litigation between two Penticton teens and BC Ferries was dropped due to costs.

Coons said that basic judicial and jury fees of $40,000 was "grim" and wondered if residents of B.C. would ever come to succinct answers about the ship's fateful night in March 2006.

"What the public needs and wants is accountability and answers, not an out-of-court settlement forced on the victims," said Coons.

In B.C., litigation trials cost $15,000 for hearing fees and $25,000 in jury fees, meaning unless someone on the plaintiff's side offers up the money to move forward, costs all but stifle opportunity for a trial.

The two teen girls lost their father, Gerald Foisy, when the Queen of the North sunk after coming into contact with Gil Island, just east of Hartley Bay.

That night, 99 people made their way to safety but Foisy along with Shirley Fosette never made it to shore.

In a story that appeared Friday in the Daily News, the teens' lawyer Peter Ritchie took the BC Courts system and BC Ferries to task, stating that the court system only protected the wealthy and large institutions that could "access the courts any time they want."

Coons has been calling for an inquiry since the ferry sank, and called for months before that for a full replacement of the North Coast ferry boats on safety grounds.

On Friday, he said the terms of reference of the judicial inquiry should include but not be limited to an examination of lack of accountability at BC Ferries, their Safety Management Systems, risk assessments, internal and external audits, its relationship to Transport Canada, and Bill 18 the Coastal Ferry Act that created the BC Ferries Corp. "that is in a veil of secrecy."

The province has so far refused an inquiry and the Transport Safety Board could only rule on what was mechanically wrong with the ship without any cross-examination of the ship's crew.
According to both Ritchie and Coons, the trial might have brought much of the information to light.

In 2006, BC Ferries reported a first quarter profit worth $76.2 million after the ferry operator collected $67.9 million in insurance from the sinking of the boat.

Although BC Ferries has conducted its own in-house inquiry, it is believed that with an out-of-court settlement, any full public disclosure of what happened that night seems to have sunk with the Queen of the North.

No comments: