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Ceremony marks 10 years since crash killed three farmworkers in Abbotsford

Event takes place Sunday afternoon at Matsqui Centennial Auditorium

  • Mar. 4, 2017 3:00 p.m.

A special ceremony takes place Sunday, March 5 in Abbotsford to mark the 10th anniversary of the death of three farmworkers who were killed as they were being transported to work.

Amarjit Kaur Bal, Sukvinder Kaur Puniua and Sarbjit Kaur Sidhu were passengers in an overcrowded and unsafe van driven by their employer on March 7, 2007.

The van crashed on Highway 1 in Abbotsford, killing the three women and injuring more than a dozen fellow workers.

The RCMP investigated the accident and recommended criminal charges be laid against the employer, but B.C.’s Ministry of Justice chose not to proceed.

Fines levied against the employer by the Workers’ Compensation Board remain unpaid.

A subsequent coroner’s inquest made several recommendations regarding the safe transportation of workers, but BC Federation of Labour president Irene Lanzinger says those recommendations are collecting dust because of the inaction by the BC Liberal government.

She said the vigil is a call to action to the provincial government and employers to do more to keep workers safe on the job.

“Worker safety isn’t a priority of the Clark government,” Lanzinger says. “Protections are weak and not always rigorously enforced. Worker safety is being compromised, and employers whose negligence kills or seriously injures workers are let off with a slap on the wrist.”

The vigil runs from 1:30 to 4 p.m. at Matsqui Centennial Auditorium, 32315 South Fraser Way.

Speakers include Lanzinger; Jagjeet Singh Sidhu, the husband of Sarbjit Sidhu; and Abbotsford Mayor Henry Braun.

Included in the program is a candlelight procession to the Golden Tree, a monument created as a legacy to the three women and to honour all farmworkers, the important work they do, and their ongoing struggle for dignity and safe working conditions.

Two plays will also be performed following the ceremony – Shaheed Bhagat Singh “Ek Soch” and Upaah, performed by members of Progressive Art Club in Punjabi.