A farmer working his field on a farm southeast of London. Mike Hensen/Postmedia Network
A Grey Highlands farmer’s criminal negligence causing the death conviction in the death of his child may be the first in Canada, according to a national farm-safety organization.“This would be first that I’ve heard of in Canada, that a farmer has been found criminally negligent with his child,” said Marcel Hacault, executive director of the Canadian Agricultural Safety Association.In his 15 years with the Winnipeg-based organization, though eight to 10 children under 16 die every year in farm-related mishaps though not all on farms, police tend not to lay charges in these sorts of cases, Hacault said.“It’s the first time I hear of an actual conviction.”Emanuel Bauman, 32, was found guilty on May 15 in the Ontario Court of Justice in Owen Sound of criminal negligence causing death of his four-year-old son, Steven, last Aug. 31. The child suffered a fatal head injury after falling out of a bucket on a skid steer in motion while his father wasn’t looking. Sentencing is in July.Hacault noted just this week a nine-year-old child was run over by a tractor in a Hutterite colony in Alberta. He was a passenger on a tractor when he fell off and was run over by the tractor, the RCMP said.“I suspect they’re (the police are) going to leave that one alone,” he said, just as they laid no charges two or three years ago when two young girls died while playing in a grain truck while it was being emptied.“I think they feel the punishment of losing your child and the psychological impact is more than any criminal conviction would ever . . . it wouldn’t do anything to help.”Hacault said that while his organization has no policy on this, he personally agrees with this police practice because “I don’t think that deterrent will occur in a family situation.” He favours prosecution in employer/employee situations, he said.And Hacault said he doubts if word of this conviction spreads across the farm community that farmers will learn a lesson.“Because it’s never going to happen to them, first of all. And for some reason – we’re trying to change that culture – for some reason farmers feel that to share their love of agriculture with children, they have to engage them in agriculture activities.”Even in enclosed cabs on tractors, with jostling kids fall out of the windows or die when the tractor tips over, or are run over when running toward the tractor and aren’t seen, he said.CASA’s message to farmers is to make sure their kids know the rules around the farm, set no-go zones, and to help youth stay safe at agricultural tasks, it has established guidelines to educate youth and help parents evaluate their child’s limits.The organization is represented at about 70 “safety days” across Canada annually, which have reached about 20,000 rural kids aged eight to 13 years. Kids visit different farm-related stations and learn safe practices.Anecdotally and through some evidence these events prompt kids to point out poor safety practices to their parents, Hacault said.