My Letter to the Ministers on the Arva Flour Mill

May 20th, 2016

Dear Ministers Mihychuk and MacAuley,

The 197 year old Arva Flour Mill is a working museum and heritage treasure, not only for the London region, but for all of Canada. It is the nation’s oldest water powered flour mill, still producing flour sold at local markets throughout Ontario.

The Arva Flour Mill is a vintage operation, as one would expect of a 197 year old facility, with leather belt driven motors and exposed vintage rollers that slowly grind wheat into flour.  Obviously, an operation of this nature does not meet the labour code standards for safety today, although the Arva Flour Mill has never had an accident since records have been kept on such situations.

While workplace safety is important, I was very concerned to learn that federal inspectors shut down the Arva Flour Mill operation in April over what it deemed “unsafe working conditions for employees” (see enclosure). Because of the care and training that employees receive and the respect that the millers have for this historic equipment, the specific machinery in question has been accident free for 113 years!

This is the only flour mill of its kind in Canada. While I of course appreciate the importance of work place safety and the well being of employees, it is clear to me that this situation is deserving of special consideration for relief from modern regulations.

I am therefore calling on you to review this situation as an urgent matter, and consider an addition to the Canadian Labour Code that will allow special provisions for the continuing operation of historic facilities in situations where special heritage value is apparent.

This situation is not one of simply workplace safety. Our agriculture heritage, and the implications for the future viability of artisan production of agri-foods are also factors in this matter.

I would also ask that, until such a change can be implemented, the order to halt operations until equipment safety is addressed, be suspended so that the Arva Flour Mill can continue to operate as an historic artisan flour producer. Any lengthy delay due to legislative process could threaten the viability of this small business and the jobs of its employees.

 

Sincerely,

Irene Mathyssen

MP, London-Fanshawe