TORONTO – Relatives of the two women who died in the rubble of a collapsed mall in Elliot Lake, Ont., are among 18 people and organizations applying for standing at a public inquiry into the tragedy.
Others applying for formal recognition include the northern Ontario city, engineers employed by the company that inspected the Algo Centre Mall, the facility’s owners, emergency responders and the province itself.
The inquiry, under Commissioner Paul Belanger, is delving into why part of the mall’s rooftop garage caved in June 23, killing Doloris Perizzolo, 74, and Lucie Aylwin, 37, and injuring several others.
“The impact of these deaths will add a new perspective to the inquiry’s conduct, and will help in keeping the inquiry open and fair to all who have been affected,” Aylwin’s father, mother and brother, and Perizzolo’s two daughters say in their application for standing.
Parties who wanted standing, which allows them to receive relevant documents and have a lawyer examine witnesses at the inquiry, had until Oct. 17 to apply.
While he has yet to rule, it is expected Belanger will recognize most of the 18 applicants, who also include engineers and building officials.
Belanger can also order government funding for those granted standing.
In a procedural order, Belanger said he wanted to hear 20-minute oral submissions from seven applicants on their requests for standing, funding or both on Oct. 26 in Elliot Lake.
Among the seven are local seniors groups and the mall’s owners.
Bob Nazarian, president of Algo Centre owner Eastwood Mall Inc., and his son Levon Nazarian, the company’s administrator, requested funding for standing on the grounds their firm’s sole source of income collapsed with the mall.
The men also pointed out they are named in multimillion-dollar lawsuits filed by the victims as well as in a proposed class-action suit.
Among other things, the suits allege the mall owner and provincial government ignored complaints about the structure.
The Elliot Lake Mall Action Committee — which speaks for those who were injured, stores that operated in the mall and their employees — has also asked for full standing.
“The mall’s collapse had a profound effect on (the committee’s) membership and the people of Elliot Lake,” it’s application states.
“All of its members were exposed to the unreasonable risk of injury or death, the nature of which is not generally associated with something as ordinary as working at, or visiting, a shopping mall.”
The group argues among warning signs of the disaster were constant leaks and pieces of falling cement.
In its application, the city argued the collapse had nothing to do with “error, omission or breach of duty” on its part, but said the municipality was “vitally interested” in the outcome of the inquiry.
Ontario said a team of at least five lawyers would participate in the probe, and promised to ensure relevant documents would be handed over to the commission.
“Participation of the province will contribute to the openness and fairness of the inquiry,” it said in its application for standing.