is a former miner who was convicted of 9 counts of second-degree
murder in connection to the 1992 Giant Mine bombings near
Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, Canada.
Warren was convicted
(in 1995) largely due to his confession to the Royal Canadian
Mounted Police, which some groups, particularly those connected
with organized labour, have claimed was false. Warren himself
later recanted the confession, and argued throughout his trial
that he was innocent.
In 2003 it was
reported that Warren again confessed to the bombing, saying that
he acted alone, although some have speculated that this was to
protect his family from the financial burden more legal battles
This second confession followed the decision by the
Association in Defence of the Wrongly Convicted, (well-known for
overturning the convictions of wrongly jailed, such as David
Milgaard), not to re-open the case.
testimony at a July 2004 lawsuit (filed by the widows of the
victims), Warren blamed poor security, his union and the company
that owned the mine, Royal Oak Mines Incorporated, for provoking
He claimed that a simple screen and padlock over a broken
window would have dissuaded him, and that he was only capable of
the bombing because strike-breakers had been "dehumanized" by
his union. He also claimed that "(his) termination resulted in
the deaths of nine men."
Warren was portrayed by Frank Moore in the 1996
CBC Television film Giant Mine.
Giant Mine Murders: Ten
Maclean's August 19, 2002
It was 8:45 a.m. on sept. 18, 1992, when the rail car
transporting the replacement workers hit the trip wire, setting
off an explosion so powerful that it drove bits of their flesh
and bone deep into the hard rock ceiling. Today, almost a decade
has passed since the name "Giant mine" became synonymous with
strife and murder. But the wounds left by the 18-month strike-lockout,
the killings, and the fallout from one of the largest murder
investigations in RCMP history, have yet to heal.
It's been years since anyone coaxed GOLD out of the area around
the 750-drift. The rich ore veins have been depleted, the rails
pulled up and left to rust in the mine's wet passageways. The
handful of men who still toil underground almost never have
reason to pass the spot where the nine miners met their sudden,
violent end. After all, it's cold and muddy 58 storeys down
inside the Canadian Shield, the air spiced with sulphur and
diesel fumes - a bad place to work. No one needs a reminder that
it must be a worse place to die.
It was 8:45 a.m. on Sept. 18, 1992, when the rail car
transporting the replacement workers - Vern Fullowka, Norm
Hourie, Chris Neill, Joe Pandev, Shane Riggs, Robert Rowsell,
Arnold Russell, Malcolm Sawler and Dave Vodnoski - hit the trip
wire, setting off an explosion so powerful that it drove bits of
their flesh and bone deep into the hard rock ceiling. Almost a
decade has passed since the name "Giant mine" became synonymous
with strife and murder.
Today, the site of one of Canada's fiercest labour disputes
could pass for a ghost town. Orange blankets of rust, sped along
by the Arctic winters, are spreading across the machinery parked
on the surface. The yellow headframe badly needs a coat of paint.
The mill buildings are idle (the little ore that the skeleton
staff still produces is hauled across town for processing).
There is a year, maybe two, left before complete shutdown.
But the wounds left by the 18-month strike-lockout, the killings,
and the fallout from one of the largest murder investigations in
RCMP history, have yet to heal. There are still some people in
town who cross the street to avoid each other. The families of
the nine victims are suing a host of parties they hold
responsible for failing to stop the bombing - union members, the
mine's former owners, the security company, the government of
the Northwest Territories. The man convicted of the crime, Roger
Warren, continues to proclaim his innocence from his jail cell.
And now, the organization that helped clear David Milgaard, Guy
Paul Morin and Thomas Sophonow is thinking of taking on his
This week, lawyers from the Association in Defence of the
Wrongly Convicted, known to supporters as AIDWYC, are in
Yellowknife interviewing Warren's friends and family, looking
for fresh evidence to back up his claim that he falsely
confessed to the murders to bring an end to the strike. The
welcome they get from locals, many of whom wish the rest of the
world would just forget the darkest chapter in the city's
history, might be as cold as the winter wind across Great Slave
"This kind of strike with the violence, and the pitting of
family against family, neighbour against neighbour, it impacts a
community for a long time," says Pat McMahon, the former mayor.
"Every time something new happens it just brings back all the
raw feelings." A lot of people who were involved in the strike
are reluctant to talk about it anymore. McMahon, a blunt, no-nonsense
woman who ran the city from 1986 through 1994, makes a point of
taping our interview. There have already been two books and a TV
movie of the week about the murders, she says; Yellowknifers are
fed up with the bad publicity. For her, like many others, the
only question that lingers is whether Warren had any help. On
the way out, she stops me on the stairs to deliver a benediction
of sorts: "You misquote me and I'll rip your guts out." There is
no laugh that follows, but her raspy voice softens a bit. "I
have to live in this town, you don't."
Nine years in jail, a lifetime to go, and he still walks like a
man worried about bumping his head on a low rock ceiling - chin
down, shoulders stooped, eyes scanning the ground before him.
Dressed in the uniform of Manitoba's Stony Mountain penitentiary
- white T-shirt, jeans with his name stencilled on the back
pocket, a fabric belt with a plastic snap buckle - he slumps
into a chair in an interview room that has been inexplicably
decorated with a painting of a doe-eyed Mexican boy wearing a
sombrero. Roger Warren, now 58, hasn't been underground since
the day in October 1993 when he confessed to the killings and
led RCMP investigators on the long plod down Giant's maze to the
scene of the crime, but his dreams are still filled with gold. "It
sort of gets in your blood," he says. "I joke with the guys - if
my punishment was to drive a drift for about 6,000 feet, and get
it done on a tight deadline, I would figure that was excellent.
Twelve hours a day, I wouldn't care. Go for it." That's not what
nine counts of second-degree murder gets you, though.
His answer to the question is unequivocal, unhesitating.
"I had nothing to do with it," says Warren. But that isn't what
he once told investigators, or the undercover detective the RCMP
placed in his jail cell in the hours after his confession, or
his lawyers, or even his wife in the weeks following his arrest.
Why he should be believed now is not a subject his lawyers want
him to discuss. Neither is the question of who else might be
Warren knows he's asking a lot. Milgaard, Morin and Sophonow
always said they were innocent. "I'm not asking anybody to feel
sorry for me," he mumbles. "I'm just hoping AIDWYC is successful.
I don't need sympathy. I just need the truth."
Yellowknife owes its existence to gold. Stand atop "The Rock,"
the high point in Old Town, and you can see the headframes of
the two mines - Giant to the North, Con to the South - that were
for so long the lifeblood of the community. When Giant, just 10
minutes outside of town, opened in 1948, the owners were getting
almost an ounce of gold per ton of ore they processed. By the
late 1980s, they were lucky to get a quarter of that yield.
Mining executive Peggy Witte and her Vancouver-based company,
Royal Oak Mines Inc., bought Giant in 1990, when the price of
gold was around US$400 and falling, already below the cost of
extracting an ounce at the aging facility. An ambitious, hard-nosed
boss, the Nevada-born Witte set about making the failing mine
profitable by slashing costs and increasing production.
Relations with mine staff and their union, the Canadian
Association of Smelter and Allied Workers, deteriorated. Many
employees were offended by her tough, sometimes arbitrary,
disciplinary measures (13 people were axed in Royal Oak's first
year of ownership, including several union activists). Union
reps worried that mine safety was being compromised in the
pursuit of the bottom line. When the collective agreement
expired in the spring of 1992, the price of gold was lower than
it had been since 1985. Witte announced that she would be
looking for pay cuts.
The miners planned to walk at 12 a.m. on May 23, 1992, but the
owners locked them out the day before. Royal Oak had replacement
workers on standby, and was helicoptering them into the mine
site within hours. It was the first time in 45 years that a
Canadian mining company had tried to break a strike.
Witte, who has reverted to her maiden name, Peggy Kent, and now
owns a meat-packing business in Ferndale, Wash., just south of
the Canadian border, says she doesn't regret the decision. Her
primary responsibility was to her shareholders, to keep the mine
operating, no matter what. "You sit for hours and days and soul-search
for what you could have done differently. But once we had the
reins, there weren't a lot of choices. It was a life and death
situation in terms of economics." Witte says she still thinks of
the widows and families. On her office wall there's a framed
cover of The Financial Post Magazine from December 1992 -
Witte, deep underground with a white hard hat and a wide grin. "Murder,
Gold & One Tough Boss," reads the headline.
The use of replacement workers enraged the strikers. From the
beginning, there were tense confrontations on the picket line,
threats of retribution and petty acts of vandalism. The RCMP
responded by flying in a riot squad from Alberta. Royal Oak
replaced its security company with Pinkerton's, an American
company that had built its early reputation by crushing coal
"When somebody scabs you it's worse than being robbed in the
street," says Bill Schram, the man who led the union local
through the first months of the dispute. "They rob your family,
they steal the food off your table, take the roof over your head.
They're thieves of the worst kind." Schram is still in
Yellowknife, long gone from the mines, now working as a guard at
the local correctional centre. A couple of strikebreakers are
fellow employees. They don't talk any more than is absolutely
Over the course of the summer, the violence increased. The
factions duked it out in downtown bars almost every night, and
police and strikers skirmished on the picket line. The federal
government ignored repeated pleas from local and territorial
officials to step in and legislate an end to the dispute. A
squad of miners, calling themselves the "Cambodian Cowboys,"
began to sneak onto the sprawling mine property at night,
harassing the Pinkertons and engaging in acts of sabotage. Hydro
poles were toppled, wires were shorted. In late June, three of
the Cowboys travelled underground to paint anti-scab graffiti on
the walls and machinery. They stole blasting caps, fuses and
sticks of powder from one of the mine's many unlocked and
unguarded explosive sheds.
The most daring members of the group, Al Shearing and Tim
Bettger, stepped up their actions. In July, Bettger, a massive
bearded man nicknamed "The Bear," tried to topple the mine's
huge satellite dish with a stick of high explosives. At the
beginning of September, he and Shearing, dubbed "The Weasel" by
his foes, "The Night Crawler" by his admirers, set off a larger
bomb near the equipment that pumped air underground to the
miners. It was a chilling warning.
Norma Jarvis's husband David was in management at the mine. They
lived with their three kids at the small company townsite near
the mine's main entrance. At times, she says, the strikers
became a mob, egged on by the most vocal picketers, people like
Bettger and Shearing. "They were always saying that they were
going to blow up the mine," says Jarvis. "That's what they
talked about every day."
Schram, who proudly wears his union ball cap around town, admits
the strikers were angry. There were acts of vandalism, lots of
overheated rhetoric on the line, but none of the men who worked
at Giant were capable of murder, he says. Maybe it was an
accident - he and other Warren supporters cling to a theory that
the replacement workers were cutting corners by carrying
explosives in their mine car, something Warren himself says he
doubts. If it was a bomb, adds Schram, someone else was
responsible. "The timing was too good for the company. Nothing
had happened in weeks, people were settling into their picket
duty, they were getting strike pay." The RCMP made up its mind
and found the evidence to fit the bill, he suggests. Detonating
38 kg of explosives by the side of the tracks was the act of a
"coward," and that's not a word he would use to describe Roger
Warren. "He never struck me as someone who would stab you in the
back," says Schram. "If he has something to say, he'll say it to
James Lockyer is accentuating the negative. Leaning back in a
chair at his Toronto office, the founding director of the AIDWYC
stretches out his long, blue-jeaned legs and runs a hand through
his thick mop of curls. No decision has been made about Roger
Warren's case, he stresses. It might be two years, or more,
before he and the other lawyers finish plowing through the
voluminous transcripts from the miner's trial, his failed
appeal, and the 12 lengthy interviews he had with RCMP
investigators before suddenly, surprisingly, confessing to the
crime. AIDWYC doesn't normally talk about the cases it's probing.
For good reason: when news of its interest in Warren leaked out
earlier this summer, talk-radio airwaves and the letters-to-the-editor
pages in Yellowknife were filled with angry exchanges. "Some
naive people, who seem to care nothing for the families of the
dead men or for justice, suggest Warren made a false confession
for his fellow workers," thundered the Yellowknifer
newspaper in an editorial. "If such were true, it would make
Warren an extraordinary person, certainly a candidate for
sainthood. But it wasn't true and he's only extraordinary in
killing nine innocent men."
But despite the disclaimers, it is clear AIDWYC has serious
misgivings about Warren's conviction. The miner's case has
several of the "hallmarks" of a false confession, says the
lawyer. The jury at his trial was forbidden to hear expert
testimony about Warren's state of mind and why some people are
motivated to take responsibility for a crimes they didn't commit,
he adds. This fall, the organization will bring in an
international expert on false confessions to consult on the
case. The only real hurdle appears to be the nagging question of
whether Warren might be covering for somebody else. "Our mandate
is that we have to decide as an organization that he's
innocent," says Lockyer. "It's not enough to say he was
convicted through an error in law."
Roger Warren was never one of the RCMP's primary suspects. That
dubious honour went to Bettger and Shearing, who both ended up
serving time for their "Cowboy" raids. A family man, active in
local sports, Warren was an ace miner who regularly brought in
$100,000 a year in salary and bonuses. He may have been grumpy
and a bit aloof, but he had no record of trouble with the
company or anyone else. Warren was on the picket line in the
early morning hours before the explosion. Investigators kept
coming back to him because he claimed to have seen two
unidentified men walking on the mine property. Police suspected
he knew more than he was saying, perhaps who had committed the
crime. Even when they discovered Warren owned a pair of boots
that were the same make and size as the ones they believed the
killer had worn in his trek through the mine, detectives simply
assumed he had lent them to someone else.
Warren's confession came as a shock to the RCMP. He had
steadfastly denied his involvement, taken two lie detector tests
(both sets of results were deemed inconclusive) and wasn't known
to have taken part in any of the Cambodian Cowboys' sorties. It
was an outsider - Gregg McMartin, a polygraph expert from the
Calgary detachment - who decided that Warren had been directly
involved in the crime. McMartin had pored over transcripts of
the miner's previous interviews with police and found them
riddled with the kind of verbal ticks and overly precise
recollections common to people who are lying. McMartin spent six
hours alone in a room with Warren, challenging, begging,
accusing, cajoling the miner until he finally admitted to
planting the bomb.
Later that night, Warren took officers on a tour of the mine,
retracing the long route down from an isolated shaft to the site
of the explosion in the 750-drift, providing details only the
killer would know, say police. Afterwards, he led investigators
to a pond where they found a satchel containing parts for a
triggering mechanism, and to a river where they found the burned
remains of a different pair of boots.
McMartin, who now runs his own polygraph consulting business and
teaches people how to catch liars, says he often thinks of the
Giant investigation. How senseless the murders were, how cold-blooded
the criminal. "The one striking thing about Roger Warren was
that when he did confess he showed absolutely no remorse. I
really found it strange. Most killers show some emotion, some
regret, but to him the miners were still 'f---ing scabs,'" says
McMartin. (Warren draws a sharp little breath and his face goes
hard when I tell him about the comment. "That's his impression,"
he says icily. "I had no remorse because I never had nothing to
do with the killings.")
The former RCMP officer has heard about the embryonic efforts to
have the federal minister of justice review the miner's
conviction. He knows most of the questions will centre on the
way he conducted himself in the interview room that October day.
McMartin makes no apologies for doing what it took to obtain a
confession. There will always be people who are ready to believe
the police are out there hatching vast "O.J. Simpson-bloody
glove" conspiracies, he says. "Roger Warren murdered nine people
and they're not going to sway me at all into thinking he was
There are things about Warren's confession and the evidence
against him that never quite added up. The four-hour window
police maintain he had to travel on foot deep underground,
construct a bomb, and escape strikes many with underground
experience as an awfully tight proposition, harder still for a
man whose health was failing. No trace of a timing device or
trip mechanism was found at the scene of the explosion, and RCMP
experts had difficulty getting the bomb Warren described to them
to work. Investigators were convinced the boots they seized from
Warren's home were the ones the killer had worn in the mine, but
why then did the miner burn and dispose of a different pair?
A jury of Warren's peers heard these arguments at trial and
found him guilty, concluding whatever doubts there were, they
weren't reasonable. An appeal court upheld the conviction. The
Supreme Court of Canada refused to take another look at his
Today, on AIDWYC's advice, Warren refuses to discuss the
circumstances of his confession. But at trial, he claimed he was
deeply depressed the day he marched into the RCMP offices and
took the rap. He had been having heart trouble, and the
medication had left him listless and impotent. He had found a
growth in his groin and was convinced it was cancer. Witte had
publicly vowed not to negotiate until someone was charged with
the murders. Warren said voices in his head were urging him to
sacrifice himself so his friends could go back to work.
Vancouver psychologist Robert Ley, an authority on false
confessions - a phenomenon that he says is quite rare - spent 25
hours examining Warren in the run-up to his trial. The Simon
Fraser University professor says the miner displayed some of the
traits common to those who try to take the blame for crimes they
didn't commit - low self-esteem, passivity, compliance. "He was
clinically depressed at the time of the confession," says Ley.
"He was quite guilt-ridden about many things in his life. There
were certainly a number of personal, psychological and
situational factors that raised the possibility of a false
confession." The trial judge refused to allow Ley to testify
about anything other than Warren's state of mind, ruling the
scientific evidence about false confessions was too scant. Even
today, despite a growing number of overturned convictions, many
remain dubious about the phenomenon.
Lee Selleck, a Yellowknife-based reporter for the CBC, co-authored
one of the Giant mine books, Dying for Gold. He and his
writing partner, Francis Thompson, spent four years working on
the project and conducted more than 350 interviews. They believe
someone else set the bomb. "A lot of the information that the
RCMP said it was holding back was common knowledge, or had oozed
out," says Selleck. Investigators ignored the inconsistencies in
Warren's confession because of the pressure they were under, he
says. "The police wanted this solved and they wanted it solved
very badly." The challenge for AIDWYC, if it decides to take on
Warren's case, will be pinning the blame on someone else.
There are a pair of worn workboots, filled with marigolds, at
the bottom of the front steps to Al Shearing's house. Inside,
suspect No. 1, slight and sinewy with a bristly grey moustache
that overhangs his gleaming white dentures, is fielding a steady
stream of phone calls from well-wishers. "Yes boy," he shouts
into the receiver in his broad Newfoundland accent. "No, no, I'm
with a reporter. I'll see you later at the bar." It's two days
before Shearing's wedding - he married Kathy Hrynczuk, the
sister of Roger Warren's wife, on July 20. Shearing came back to
Yellowknife in 1996, at the end of his 2 ˝-year sentence for the
vent shaft bombing. Now, he's trying to ensure his friend comes
home too. Shearing seems unfazed by the possibility that efforts
to secure Warren's freedom could end up putting him back on the
hot seat. "I can take it," he says, laughing. "I know I didn't
have nothing to do with it."
For 13 months, RCMP investigators watched Al Shearing and Tim
Bettger's every move. They bugged their phones, their homes,
their cars, and dispatched paid informants to gain their
confidence. Shearing was interrogated three times and, on the
advice of his lawyer, refused to take a polygraph test. Bettger,
who did not respond to an interview request, was questioned
numerous times, and he too denied all involvement. "It was a
hassle," Shearing recalls. "No matter where I turned around
there was always a cop in my face saying, 'We know you did it'
and 'We're going to get you' and all that crap."
Shearing says he knows the confession is false. The night before
Warren took the blame, he and Shearing sat in the Polar Bowl bar,
poring over an Edmonton Journal story that detailed the
killer's route through the mine, and theorized about how a bomb
might have been set up. They talked about Witte's vow that the
strike wouldn't end until someone was charged. Shearing is a
proponent of the accident theory. He says the company and the
RCMP were in cahoots, trying to break the union. "Every one of
us was capable physically, technically. But no one had the balls,"
he says, waving his cigarette in the air. His hands are black,
permanently stained with oil and grease from his years as a
heavy duty mechanic. "Even if it was scabs that was blown up, it
was nine people. It would play on your mind." I ask if he has
any trouble sleeping at night. He laughs. "I got no problems at
all," he says. "And Roger's the same way."
Many of the strikers have moved away over the last decade, but
the community of those who believe in Warren's innocence remains
tight. Shearing still talks with Bettger, who now lives in
Saskatchewan, and other union brothers who have scattered across
the country. Ann, Warren's older daughter, and her mother Helen,
continue to live in Yellowknife. Roger is still listed in the
phone book. "We feel comfortable living here because we know
he's innocent," says Ann. "It's a tough and tragic situation for
everyone involved, but we've been hoping for a long time that
someone would take a look at all of this."
The violence at Giant forged another close group - the eight
widows and 27 children whose lives changed forever that
September morning. They, too, are anxiously watching the news
reports, waiting to see if AIDWYC will take up the case of a man
convicted of one of Canada's worst mass murders, and reopen
everything they've been trying to put behind them for the last
10 years. "I've had three calls from the girls this week," says
Doreen Hourie, whose husband Norm defied his union and crossed
the picket line. "When you think, 'I just don't know what my
husband would have done in this situation,' we're there for each
other. We call each other because we know what each other is
At the prison, Warren pauses for about 10 seconds, shifting
uncomfortably in his seat, when I ask him how he responds to the
widows. "I don't know what you say that would ever be adequate,"
he says, finally. "Nobody wants to see anybody suffer that kind
of loss." He stops again and crosses his arms. "I didn't have
nothing to do with killing their husbands, that's all I can say."
Hourie, who sat through the entire trial, says she doesn't know
how anyone can doubt Warren is a murderer. She's frustrated,
knowing painful memories will be dredged up again. "Nobody is
writing the story about these men, our husbands, who paid this
ultimate price. People are so worried that Roger was wrongfully
convicted. My husband was wrongfully killed!" she snaps. "Roger's
in jail, his family can go visit him. He's still alive. He
didn't leave us with anything." Just questions that some people
refuse to believe have been answered.
Man confesses to 1992 mining murders
July 10, 2003
Eight years after he
was convicted of one of worst mass murders in Canadian history,
Roger Warren has admitted his guilt.
Warren, 59, was convicted of second-degree murder in connection
with the deaths of nine people in an underground explosion at
Yellowknife's Giant Mine in 1992.
He was given a life sentence with no chance of parole for 20
Initially, he confessed to planting the bomb.
But he recanted. Warren denied his guilt throughout his trial and
maintained that position until his admission earlier this year.
In January, he confessed his crime to two
lawyers who are representing the victims' families in a civil
lawsuit that will start this fall.
Warren, an inmate at Manitoba's Stony Mountain
Penitentiary, called the bombing, which took place during a bitter
labour dispute, an "ill-advised act."
He said he underwent psychological testing
because he hoped "to atone in some small way" and hoped the
victims' families would understand their loved ones "were not
targets of hate, but unfortunate victims of a reckless act".
Roger Warren Confesses to
Maclean's July 21, 2003
In the years he spent deep underground, drilling for gold in
Yellowknife's Giant mine, Roger Warren was known as a doer, not
a talker. The kind of guy who kept his own counsel, didn't
suffer fools - gladly or otherwise - and wouldn't cut corners no
matter how nasty the task. "I've seen more guys tell lies at
work just to avoid getting in a little trouble," Warren told
Maclean's in an interview last summer. "I wouldn't even lie
about how many rock bolts I put in. If I did 99, I'd say 99, not
100. If I put in one loose one I would tell the guy."
That straight-shooter image is one his family and supporters
have clung to during his 10 years behind bars. Ever since Warren
was accused and then convicted of setting the bomb that killed
nine replacement workers at the height of a bitter labour
dispute in September 1992, they have said he wasn't the type of
man capable of murder. Now, they may have to reconsider.
After nearly a decade of professing his innocence, Warren is now
repeating the confession he first made to RCMP investigators in
1993 and recanted shortly after - that he alone was responsible
for the deadly blast. This latest admission, first made to
lawyers in January in a deposition for a civil suit and only now
out in the open, marks another strange twist in the saga of one
of Canada's worst mass murders.
A year ago, the Association in Defence of the Wrongly Convicted,
the group that helped free David Milgaard, Guy Paul Morin and
other falsely accused prisoners, was looking into Warren's case.
They quietly backed away earlier this year; Warren subsequently
told reporters that he worried the drive to clear his name might
focus attention on others like his now brother-in-law, Al
Shearing, who was an early suspect.
This new confession could change the complexion of a civil suit
against the then owners of the mine, the territorial government,
and several of Warren's former union brothers, a case that is
scheduled for trial in September. Some of Warren's supporters
speculate that the miner is trying to help his friends by
shouldering the blame. But Jeff Champion, the Edmonton lawyer
who represents the victims' families, says this latest admission
of guilt should help their case. "Mr. Warren was just one of
many people who were resorting to violence," he says. "These
nine men wouldn't have died unless many people who had an
obligation to keep the workplace safe dropped the ball."
Civil trial begins into NWT
1992 mine bombing
Sep. 29, 2003
YELLOWKNIFE -- Joe Pandev lost his dad 11
years ago when a bomb set deep in the heart of Yellowknife's
Giant gold mine exploded, killing nine miners.
He hasn't decided if he'll be in court Monday,
when a massive civil lawsuit launched in 1994 finally goes to
trial in a specially built courtroom. Pandev just wants the
whole matter to end.
"When it drags on for such a long time, the
emotion gets deadened," he said from his home in Yellowknife.
"You get numb to it after a while."
The families of the deceased miners are
claiming millions in damages from a number of defendants and
third parties, including Royal Oak Mines and its then-president
Peggy Witte, the territorial government, the mine union, the
company providing security at the mine and Roger Warren, the man
convicted of setting the blast.
The plaintiffs say Royal Oak and Witte failed
to provide a safe working environment for the nine miners.
The murders came in September 1992 during a
violent 18-month strike-lockout that saw daily confrontations
and two other explosions at the mine, as well as skirmishes with
RCMP. The nine dead miners had crossed the picket lines to work.
Witte, who now goes by Margaret Kent, and
lawyers for the other defendants could not be reached for
The judge-alone trial will be held in
sprawling makeshift courtroom on the fifth floor of a downtown
office building near the courthouse.
Walls have been moved and furniture has been
installed to create a courtroom 30 metres long and 10 metres
wide (about one quarter the surface of an NHL rink) to go with
judge's chambers, offices for support staff and witness and
There are 13 tables for the legal teams. The
estimated cost is $1 million. Justice Department spokesman Glen
Rutland said they needed the room to accommodate lawyers for the
nine plaintiffs, defendants and third parties.
"These costs could be reduced," said Rutland.
"But we've been told that the trial will last 10 to 12 months."
The year-long lease alone will cost the territorial government
The space was turned over to the courts last
week. Since then the doors have been locked and entry by the
elevator not permitted.
There are 38 seats for families of the
plaintiffs, reporters and members of the public.
Lawyers representing the nine families say
they're not sure how many people will be in the courtroom Monday.
"I know that every one of the clients will be
there at some point," said Phil Warner, one of the Edmonton-based
lawyers representing the widows of the men killed in the blast.
Warren, a member of the miners' union,
confessed to setting the bomb and was convicted in 1995 of nine
counts of second-degree murder.
He is serving a life sentence at Stony
Mountain Penitentiary near Winnipeg. Warren does not have a
lawyer and it's not known if he will testify at this hearing.
But Pandev, who lost his father Josef in the
bombing, said he has no desire to see Warren on the stand.
"It (the case) has been beat to death," said
Lawyers for the plaintiffs say they expect to
call evidence well into February. They call their list of
witnesses a "work-in-progress."
Widows in Giant Mine bombing awarded
CTV.ca News Staff
Thu. Dec. 16 2004
The widows of nine men killed by a bomb at
Yellowknife's Giant mine in 1992 have been awarded $10.7 million
in damages in a civil lawsuit.
The Supreme Court of the Northwest
Territories released its judgment Thursday.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of the
victims' families by the Workers Compensation Board, after
striking miner Roger Warren confessed to bombing the mine and
killing nine workers.
The court found that the mining company,
Royal Oak Limited, and the union that represented the workers
shared almost as much blame for the killings as Warren himself.
Warren has said he was furious when Royal Oak
locked the Grand Mine workers out in May 22, 1992, a day before
they had planned to strike.
He said he wanted to scare the replacement
workers away from crossing the picket lines. So he planted a bag
of explosive powder and two sticks of dynamite on the track
carrying mine cars 200 metres underground
The nine men were killed on Sept. 18, 1992 when
their mine car hit the deliberately set bomb.
Warren was convicted of nine counts of second-degree
in 1995 and is serving a life sentence.
The board launched the suit contending that
all parties in the labour dispute - including Royal Oak, the
union and the hired security staff - shared responsibility for
the deaths because they fomented an atmosphere of tension in the
During the 18-month long labour struggle,
there were daily confrontations and two other explosions, as
well as skirmishes with RCMP.
Warren told the trial that the violent
atmosphere at the mine was stoked by union strike bulletins. He
testified that talk of committing violent acts was common on the
picket line and at bars frequented by the strikers.
He added that he felt that the disorganized
union didn't have a handle on the situation.
The labour dispute and the bombing still
incite anger to this day. Testimony in the suit was heard in a
specially-built courtroom in a downtown Yellowknife office
building. Security was tight for Warren's testimony and
spectators were forced to go through metal detectors.
The estimated cost of the judge-alone trial
was $1 million.
Summary of Lessons from
the Giant Mine Civil Trial
Summary by Mitchell Baker,
Paper by J. PhilipWarner, Q.C., of Bishop & MacKenzie, LLP
J. Philip Warner’s
discussion, “Lessons from the Giant Mine Civil Trial,” focuses
on lessons learned from the civil trial concerning the
accidental death of nine miners as the result of a bomb
explosion. These lessons were about strike/general violence,
group behaviour, vicarious liability, and apportionment of
damages and liability. The incident took place on Sept. 18, 1992
at Giant Mine in Yellowknife, NWT. Mr. Warner explains that the
nine miners killed were replacement miners, and the bomb itself
had been constructed by a striking miner, Roger Warren, who was
charged and convicted of second-degree murder.
Warner discusses what
influenced Roger Warren, and many other strikers, to resort to
violent actions and acts of vandalism. Warner explains that the
strike caused law-abiding, hard-working contributors to the
community to become criminal offenders. Warren learned that
strikers in the town believed they had the right to resort to
violence due to what the mine management had done to them. The
replacement workers, according toWarren, became like “faceless
entities” in his eyes.
In his paper, Warner
explains the actions of Roger Warren and describes the planning
of Roger Warren’s bombing of the mine.
Warner explains the group
behaviour of the strikers by using three academic sources,
sociological models (to explain outbreak of violence),
epidemiological models (to explain how violence spreads, strange
behaviours affecting crowds in epidemic-like fashions, like mob
lynchings) and studies of terrorism (to explain organization’s
use of violence to achieve its objectives).
Warner discusses the
vicarious liability associated with Roger Warren’s actions, and
explains how the union was vicariously liable for Warren’s
actions. He notes the reason Warren and many other strikers
acted the way that they did was due to the example set forth by
the union leaders. Warner discusses the apportionment of fault
as an issue at trial and explains the guidelines in assessing
the extent to which a party is “blameworthy.” Warner notes that
blameworthiness falls into four main areas of concern: the
nature of the duty owed by the tortfeasor to the injured person,
the nature of the conduct held to amount to fault, the number of
acts constituting fault and the timing of the conduct; and the
extent to which the conduct breaches statutory requirements.
Warner ends his discussion
with the belief that although Warren was portrayed as an
individual acting on his own, his action was just one step in
the collective action takenduring the strike, influenced by
others. Mr. Warner explains that collective action is a powerful
force, a lesson which can be learned from the Giant Mine