Witness breaks into tears recounting construction site terror
MONTREAL - A witness broke down in tears Wednesday at the Charbonneau Commission as he recounted how a group of 40 to 50 visitors wreaked havoc at his construction site on Quebec’s North Shore in 2005.
Normand Pedneault, the Saguenay-based owner of Paul Pedneault Inc., traveled the province to fulfill many contracts, but said that things got complicated when he reached Quebec’s North Shore.
Pedneault testified that dealing with local unions was a major challenge in the North Shore, as he was repeatedly threatened for not hiring local workers.
He described one encounter with Michel Bezeau, the local representative on the North Shore Association of Interprovincial Maneuvers (AMI), a group affiliated with FTQ-Construction.
Bezeau allegedly told Pedneault that if he did not hire North Shore workers on his construction site, “it would snow,” but if he accepted to hire locals, “the storm would pass.”
And indeed trouble ensued in 2005 when Pedneault proceeded with his usual workers, but work was abruptly shut down when 40 to 50 men paid a visit.
Pedneault, who was not present at the site at the time of the incident, described what happened, while fighting back tears.
“I found out that the construction site had been closed and that my brothers (Benoît and Daniel) were badly roughed up. A group of about 50 guys came and intimidated my workers. My workers locked up the machinery so it would not get broken, and they lined up alongside the machines. Some were pulled out of their mechanical shovels, some were kicked and hit,” said Pedneault through tears.
Charbonneau offered to suspend the hearings but Pedneault insisted on continuing in spite of the pain in recounting the events.
“Some of the 40 to 50 men came into the trailer and my two brothers were there. They were stuck. They pushed them right to the back. They held them by their throats. My brother said that one weighed about 300 pounds and he put his fist six inches from his face. He was drunk and threatened them: 'Pedneault, did you get what just happened on the construction site? You didn’t want to listen to us? Now you’ll see. And you’d better listen because the next time, there won’t be a next time. We know where you live. You have kids and a family and we’ll deal with you,'” Pedneault said.
As they left, they kicked some trucks and other machinery. The episode took about 10 minutes.
The SQ provincial police sent a single agent who only arrived six hours later.
The workers and Pedneault's brothers were traumatized by the incident.
“These are men, construction workers, family men, they’re used to a rough life, they’re not wimps,” he said.
“I tried to discuss it with them a few days ago and one started to cry They don't want to talk about it. The next day they hid their bruises. Their pride was broken. They’re still angry about it. Their morale was broken. It wasn’t physical wounds, those aren’t so serious, it’s the fact that they felt oppressed and diminished.”
One worker just quit on the spot and never returned.
Pedneault explained that he kept his own workers because whenever he relented and agreed to hire locally, workers would find ways in which to slow down the project to extend their working hours, leading to huge losses in revenue.
‘Rambo’ Gauthier, who continues to be mentioned as the source of this intimidation, is set to take the stand within days, much to the anticipation of those watching the inquiry closely.