Ex-engineer loses bid to keep parts of Elliot Lake mall collapse report secret

A discredited former engineer has lost his bid to keep parts of a report into the deadly collapse of a northern Ontario mall secret until after his criminal trial.

OTTAWA — A discredited former engineer has lost his bid to keep parts of a report into the deadly collapse of a northern Ontario mall secret until after his criminal trial.

The commissioner who presided over the Elliot Lake mall collapse inquiry dismissed Robert Wood’s application Monday, writing that the open court principle is particularly important for public inquiries.

“Such a redaction order would prevent the publication of a possibly important and integral part of the report, which the public and community of Elliot Lake have been waiting for for over two years,” Commissioner Paul Belanger wrote.

Belanger’s commission of inquiry wrapped up public hearings into the June 2012 tragedy last October.

Among those testifying was Wood, who had attested to the structural soundness of the Algo Centre Mall in Elliot Lake in an inspection report he altered to downplay the building’s state of disrepair. Weeks after that report, part of the rooftop parking deck caved in. Two women were killed and several other people were hurt.

Wood argued in his application for a publication ban that potentially adverse findings in Belanger’s report, due by the end of October, could jeopardize his right to a fair trial on charges of criminal negligence causing death and bodily harm.

Although a commission does not lay blame as such, Belanger has already informed Wood he may make adverse findings against him.

Wood was concerned that Belanger’s findings could taint the pool of potential jurors for his trial.

But Belanger sided with a trio of media organizations — The Canadian Press, the Globe and Mail and CBC — that opposed Wood’s request, concluding that Wood failed to show that publication of the report would pose a serious threat to his right to a fair trial.

At this point Wood’s trial is unlikely to take place until late 2015, at the earliest, Belanger wrote.

“Is it reasonable to keep an integral and significant part of the commission’s report hidden all this time?” he wrote. “I think not.”

Wood’s attempt to keep parts of the report under wraps until after his trial “fails to take into account the realities surrounding jury selection,” Belanger wrote.

Jurors are instructed to ignore media coverage. Wood also has the right to seek a change of venue for his trial. And by the time Wood’s trial takes place potential jurors’ memories “will undoubtedly have faded,” Belanger wrote.

The commissioner also noted that Wood’s testimony was open to the public, garnered a fair amount of media coverage, and is still available on the commission’s website along with the rest of the evidence and submissions.

In addition to his criminal charges laid in January, Wood also faces mall-related charges from last year that he violated provincial health and safety laws.

Just Posted

Ella Stoner, five, is ready to cut off her hair and donate it to A Child’s Voice Foundation. (Photo by Lauren Stoner Photography)
Central Alberta girl to donate her ‘princess hair’ to A Child’s Voice Foundation

A five-year-old girl from Rimbey has never had a haircut before. Now,… Continue reading

Asymptomatic testing will now be available for "priority groups" who are most likely to spread the COVID-19 virus to vulnerable or at-risk populations. File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS
Alberta adds 1,195 new COVID-19 cases Saturday

Red Deer has dropped to 760 active cases

Lacombe-Ponoka MLA Ron Orr
Central Alberta MLAs comment on UCP members kicked out of caucus

A pair of central Alberta MLAs have commented on the two United… Continue reading

Contributed photo
Johanna Hannaford: Central Alberta designer offers inclusive clothing

By Stephanie Rhodes Local designer Johanna Hannaford’s inclusive clothing creations are smashing… Continue reading

Red life-ring with splash
Started from the bottom: How a family business started and grew in central Alberta

By Carina Moran We started our business in the basement of our… Continue reading

Vancouver Canucks' Zack MacEwen (71), Travis Boyd (72) and Jimmy Vesey (24) celebrate a goal against the Edmonton Oilers during third period NHL action in Edmonton on Saturday, May 15, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Big third period lifts Vancouver Canucks to 4-1 victory over Edmonton Oilers

Canucks 4 Oilers 1 EDMONTON — Matthew Highmore scored twice in the… Continue reading

A vial of the Medicago vaccine sits on a surface. CARe Clinic, located in Red Deer, has been selected to participate in the third phase of vaccine study. (Photo courtesy www.medicago.com)
Canada’s vaccine rollout operation won’t miss a beat with new military leader: expert

DARTMOUTH — The sudden departure of the senior military officer in charge… Continue reading

Quebec Premier Francois Legault speaks during a news conference on the COVID-19 pandemic, Tuesday, September 29, 2020 at the legislature in Quebec City. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jacques Boissinot
Quebec premier argues province has power to amend constitution in letter to Trudeau

MONTREAL — Quebec Premier François Legault has written a letter to Prime… Continue reading

A demonstrator stands in front of riot police officers during a banned protest in support of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, in Paris, Saturday, May, 15, 2021. Marches in support of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip were being held Saturday in a dozen French cities, but the focus was on Paris where riot police countered organizers who said they would defy a ban on the protest, ordered on the grounds that it risked turning violent. (AP Photo/Rafael Yaghobzadeh)
Police fire tear gas on banned Palestinian march in Paris

PARIS (AP) — French riot police fired tear gas and used water… Continue reading

Photo by The Associated Press
NYC Pride parade bans police; Gay officers ‘disheartened’

NEW YORK (AP) — Organizers of New York City’s Pride events said… Continue reading

Welcoming cowboy boots at the historic and colourful Last Chance Saloon in the ghost town of Wayne near Drumheller, Alta., on Thursday, Sept. 19, 2019. The bar and hotel are up for sale. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘It was a going concern’: Remaining bar and hotel in Alberta coal ghost town for sale

WAYNE, Alta. — Built during the First World War, it survived the… Continue reading

A letter from a bottle that washed up in New Brunswick in 2017 is shown in an undated handout photo. A team of researchers from Université du Québec à Rimouski are trying to solve the mystery of whether a letter in a bottle that washed up in New Brunswick in 2017 was indeed from a young victim of Titanic shipwreck or simply a hoax. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, N. Beaudry, UQAR *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Real or hoax? Quebec scholars probe mystery letter allegedly from Titanic passenger

MONTREAL — Researchers from Université du Québec à Rimouski are trying to… Continue reading

Minister of Transport Marc Garneau takes part in a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2019. Advocates, experts and opposition MPs say correspondence showing close communication between the federal Transport Department and the Canadian Transportation Agency regarding passenger refunds throws into question the independence of the CTA, an arm’s-length body. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Emails reveal close communication between government, transport regulator on refunds

OTTAWA — Advocates, experts and opposition MPs say correspondence showing close communication… Continue reading

Most Read