Mother Calls $50k Fine Over Son’s Death ‘A Slap On the Wrist’

The mother of 20-year-old Nick Chenier, who was killed in a hedge trimming accident in Manotick last summer, was confused and insulted over the outcome of a non-criminal trial last Thursday.

Shawn Best Green of Best Green Hedges was charged by the Minister of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development after an investigation with failing to ensure the company took all reasonable steps to comply with the province’s Occupational Health and Safety Act while at the site of the hedge trimming.

Best Green pleaded guilty to that charge at the Constellation Drive courthouse in Centrepointe.

Nick Chenier worked for Best Green as a hedge trimmer. During a project in Manotick a year ago, he hit a power line that was buried within the hedge and was killed.

Jennifer Chenier, who moved from Manotick to Richmond with her youngest son Michael after the tragedy, was upset over the outcome of the trial despite Best Green’s guilty plea. She called it a “slap on the wrist.”

“It’s not fair,” Chenier said. “The penalty should have been far worse.”

In November, the Ontario Ministry of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development brought charges against Best Green Hedges, company director Sheldon Best Green and supervisor Steven Deans.

Shawn Best Green pled guilty. Justice of the Peace Jennifer Robinson was presented with a joint proposal from the Crown and the defence to fine Best Green $45,000 plus a victim impact surcharge that brought the total fine to about $50,000.

Best Green apologized in the court room, saying that Nick Chenier’s death was the most difficult thing he has ever had to deal with.

“I am truly sorry for what happened and for the devastation you’ve been living with,” Best Green said. “It is not lost on me that I lost someone I was responsible for.”

The company was also charged with failing to warn a worker about hazards and failing to give information to a worker to protect their health and safety. The charges were both dropped, as Best Green took personal responsibility for the incident.

Deans was charged with failing to take reasonable precautions for the safety of a worker. On Wednesday, Ottawa Police Service charged Deans, 38, with one count of criminal negligence causing death. Because of the criminal charge, Deans’ lawyer, Fabienne Lajoie, asked for an adjournment for one month so Deans could consider his options.

Jennifer Chenier was pleased with the charge laid against Deans, who was the supervisor when her son died.

Ottawa and District Labour Council President Sean McKenny told CTV News that he hoped the charges to Dean will send a message to other employers about workplace safety.

“This is the first time in the city of Ottawa, the area close to the city of Ottawa, that a criminal negligence causing death charge has been laid against an employer or a supervisor of the company,” McKenny said. “And our hope for sure is that it sends a message to other employers that health and safety is important, that the workers at a workplace deserve to be treated with respect and health and safety and the legislation that exists to protect those workers is applied all of the time. All of the time that they’re at the workplace, no matter what they’re engaged in doing at the workplace.”

Emotional statement

In court, Jennifer Chenier read an emotional victim impact statement but later said she was frustrated by frequent interruptions . She said that when she heard them say, “He’s gone,” those were the worst two words should has ever heard in her life.

“My son, Nick Chenier was taken from me on May 5, 2023 in a workplace fatal incident,” she said. “I can’t bring myself to call this an accident. Nick was just about to turn 21. He had his whole life – it was and was going to be a wonderful and fulfilling life – ahead of him.”

Jennifer Chenier spoke about the last time she saw her son. The job he was working on was only two streets over from their house in Manotick. Jennifer brought him sandwiches for lunch. He complained to her about the job, and she told him to be safe.

Jennifer went to Barrhaven for an appointment and saw on social media that there was a power outage due to a hedge trimming accident. A hedge trimming worker had been seriously injured.

“The nauseating, painful deep pain I felt in my chest was like a nightmare that I prayed wasn’t happening,” she said. “ ‘Maybe it wasn’t him,’ I thought to myself. Please God, don’t let it be Nick. The next few minutes trying to reach someone by phone seemed like an eternity.  When I finally I did, and I was told it was Nick. He was being taken to the hospital and I was told to stay where I was.

“They would not tell me what hospital he was being taken to. I remember standing on a curb where I was waiting when the police cruiser arrived. Then… my life changed forever. I remember falling to the ground, screaming “NO! NO! How do you know for sure? They can bring him back!  The officer simply and calmly said, “No. He’s gone”. Everything after that – I don’t remember details – but when arriving at the hospital, being brought into ‘the room’, I knew it was real. There were so many people. And then came the time to see him. Only I couldn’t, because my child was so badly burned that I had to say goodbye to my first born son while he was covered in a white sheet. That is a vision that haunts me forever. I have PTSD that was diagnosed by my physician and therapist. I have reoccurring nightmares of him stuck in a hedge burning.”

Jennifer Chenier said that she is carrying a deep anger over losing her son in an avoidable incident. She said she is not the same person.

“Since losing my son, my life has changed,” she said. “I have changed. I’m no longer myself. I never will be again. I carry so much intense anger inside me. Knowing my son reached out that morning with concerns, and was ‘brushed off’, haunts me to this day. This will never go away. Knowing this could have been prevented if the people who were responsible for keeping him safe listened and did their jobs lives with me every day.

“My son died working hard, making a living doing what he loved. And unsafe working conditions ended his life that day. Carrying this anger with me every day is emotionally and physically exhausting. No parent should have to bury their child. I wake up every morning hoping it was a bad dream. Then reality sets in and I have to find a way to maneuver through every single day in a world I no longer know.

“I don’t know how I will ever feel joy or happiness again. Every day has been a horrible struggle to get through the day. Knowing I will never see him get married, or have his own children, or be a best man in his brother’s wedding. Both of them will never be uncles.”