Two dead in workplace violence shooting in Nanaimo, British Columbia

On April 30th, at the crack of dawn, it is reported that a recently laid off employee from Western Forest Products in Nanaimo, British Columbia, returned to his former workplace and shot 4 people. 2 of those victims have died.

The details of this tragic story are still unfolding and more will be learned in the days and weeks to come but it serves as a timely reminder to us all that the issue of workplace violence a reality in our region and communities.  A suspect is in custody in Nanaimo and the authorities state that they are not looking for anyone else. 

Shootings are rare but they do happen.

Historically, Canadian legislation surrounding workplace violence focused on clients or customers of a business becoming aggressive and violent towards workers. Not a great deal of attention was placed (certainly within any known regulations) on the fact that it might be the person who works alongside you or supervisors you, that you need to be concerned about. Until that is, Richard Anderson shot and killed two people in the Ministry of water, Land and Air Protection office where he worked in Kamloops on October 15th 2002. Anderson then committed suicide in his office.

During the coroner’s inquest that was held following this tragedy, several issues came to light that ultimately moved the Workers Compensation Board to develop and implement legislation which included ‘co-workers’ as a potential source of violence.

There may be outward advance signs of workplace violence potential

One of the most glaring discoveries delivered within the testimony at the inquest is that Richard Anderson had talked previously to several staff members about violence and that there were definite indicators that he was prone to violent behaviour.

Three separate employees who were interviewed during the investigation by the Workers Compensation Board stated that Richard Anderson had told them he would react violently if he were to be fired. However, none of the employees who heard those statements deemed them to be serious and discounted them immediately.

There were many recommendations that resulted from the Inquest including the directive that all incidents of violence or those where there was a potential for violence, must be reported.

The Kamloops murder-suicide that took place more than a decade ago will for ever be remembered as the day when our workplaces became a place where we could not guarantee safety.

Today, despite new legislation and an increased awareness, it is Nanaimo that will again remind us of that fact.