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Deputy Sheriffs Put At Risk On Unsafe Airlines - BCGEU

Deputy Sheriffs in Abbotsford raised the alarm bells about their unsafe working conditions months before the Island Express crash that occurred on February 23, 2018. 

Island Express -- the airline that provides flights for Deputy Sheriffs to transfer their prisoners – was shut down by Transport Canada due to the airline's contraventions of Canadian aviation safety regulations. Prior to this, Deputy Sheriffs had brought forward safety concerns about the airline on a regular basis.

The BC Sheriffs Service management team failed to act on the safety concerns that were raised, as these concerns should have triggered near-miss health and safety investigations on multiple occasions. 

The BCGEU is pleased to see frontline workers stand up for what is right by putting the employer on notice that they will not be entering a worksite with unsafe working conditions. They will be acting on their right and the right of all workers in B.C. with WorkSafeBC Regulation 3.12: The Right to Refuse Unsafe Work.

List of Island Express Air Safety Violations 

May 2015
Island Express Air allows a person to act as flight crew even though they have not fulfilled the ground school or flight training requirements. The airline was fined $5,000 in 2016.

Jan, Feb 2017 – On six occurrences, Island Express Air allows aircraft in their custody to be operated when they were not mechanically certified for flight. The airline was fined $30,000.

Feb 14, 2017 - The responsibility of flying prisoners is moved from the Victoria sheriffs' office to the Abbotsford sheriffs because of problems with Orca Air. 

Aug 2017- Engine failure during takeoff. Return to emergency landing in Abbotsford.

Nov 23, 2017 - Landing gear would not deploy properly.

Nov 29, 2017- Landing gear would not deploy properly. Emergency equipment line runway in Victoria.

Between Nov 29, 2017- Jan 12, 2018 - Door opens during flight. Deputies assist pilot in closing and securing flight crew door.

Jan 17, 2018 - Severe turbulence rocked aircraft during flight. The heads of everyone onboard are smashed into the roof. Two deputies were injured as result and continue to be off work.

Jan 31, 2018- Landing gear again fails to deploy. Emergency procedures enacted again.

Feb 6, 2018 - Door not secured properly prior to flight. Opened during flight.

Feb 23, 2018- Island Express Air crashed on takeoff at Abbotsford Airport. The airline's operating certificate was suspended by Transport Canada until it proves it can keep its operations consistently compliant with safety regulations.

Dean Purdy, BCGEU Vice President, Sheriffs and Corrections Services, says he is "very disappointed with the BC Sheriffs management for not listening to the safety concerns of the frontline Deputy Sheriffs." Purdy adds that "safety is always the number one priority for sheriffs, and their leadership's failure to act on the concerns raised by their Deputy Sheriffs is a major concern."

Purdy, along with BCGEU Component 1 Local Chair Brandon Cox, recently met with the sheriffs at the Abbotsford courts. Both Purdy and Cox were pleased with the outcome of the meeting. They were also pleased to learn about the new airline's positive safety record, the larger and newer 15-passenger airplane, and senior management's willingness to finally listen to the Deputy Sheriffs' safety concerns.

Purdy says "as much as this is positive news for us, our members have heard this story before and nothing had changed. The BCGEU welcomes the joint risk assessment and the collaborative approach that has been agreed on. Local 104 chair Brandon Cox, OH&S BCGEU Staff Rep Brandon Thistle, and three Deputy Sheriffs -- all of whom are on the Joint OH&S Committee or flight working group out of Abbotsford Courts -- and the employer will be involved in the risk assessment. This group will also be on the first flight on the new airline before any Deputy Sheriffs have to take flight."


Brandon Cox, Local 104 Chair (Second from the left) stands aside Abbotsford Deputy Sheriffs