National News

Ex-engineer asks to preview mall inquiry report

By Colin Perkel, The Canadian Press

TORONTO - A former engineer criminally charged in the deadly collapse of a northern Ontario mall is asking to see parts of a judicial inquiry report into the disaster before it is made public.

In a rare application to the commission, Robert (Bob) Wood says he will decide after a review — if granted — whether he wants to then ask for the parts related to him to be blacked out.

Wood, 65, maintains potentially adverse findings against him by Commissioner Paul Belanger in the final report could jeopardize his right to a fair trial.

"Procedural fairness dictates that the applicant should be permitted a review of the draft final report of the commission prior to the publication of the report," the request states.

"The commissioner has the jurisdiction to prevent the release of information that could be expected to be injurious to the administration of justice."

The application asserts that because Wood only wants a sneak peek preview of the report and is not yet asking for any redactions, he is not running afoul of the media's constitutional rights.

That might happen, he argues, if he applies to have sections blacked out and the issue can be thrashed out then.

The Algo Centre Mall in Elliot Lake, Ont., collapsed June 23, 2012. Two women died and several others were hurt.

A public inquiry, at which Wood testified, spent months delving into the circumstances of the collapse.

In his testimony last June, the discredited engineer admitted to changing a report on the state of the mall at the request of its owner, Bob Nazarian, to make it look less decrepit.

He also signed off on an inspection report just weeks before the collapse, saying the mall was structurally sound.

Provincial police subsequently charged him with criminal negligence causing death and criminal negligence causing bodily harm.

A preliminary hearing on the criminal charges has yet to take place and Wood has not yet said, if he stands trial, whether he would elect to be tried by a judge and jury or judge alone.

The commission has informed Wood — and several others — that Belanger could find misconduct on their parts.

"The publication of any findings of credibility or other findings with respect to (Wood) would be far-reaching given the notoriety that the Elliot Lake mall collapse has generated," the application states.

Commission lawyers said they would not comment on the application at this time.

Belanger has scheduled a hearing on Wood's application for next month in Ottawa.

His final report is due by the end of October.

Wood lost his professional engineering licence on a matter unrelated to the mall collapse.

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