Every Monday, Mark Powell drives to Burlington, Ont., The pork factory where his wife died to provide water to pigs on their way to slaughter.
That’s what Regan Russell did every week until one day in June 2020, when a truck driver ran over her and killed her.
Police charged the driver with reckless driving that caused the death – a non-criminal provincial offense – because investigators said he had no criminal intent.
Two years later, when the case disappeared in court and a trial date has not yet been set, Powell says he has lost faith in the investigation and is going to civil court to try to get answers about his wife’s death.
“I want to know what happened to my person,” Powell said.
Last week, he filed a $ 5 million lawsuit over her death. The truck driver, Andrew Blake, the haulage company Brussels Transport, and Sofina Foods, the company that owns Fearman’s Pork processing plant, are among those mentioned in the case.
The unsubstantiated claim claims that negligence on their part led to Russell’s death.
The allegation alleges that the driver failed to keep a close eye on and made an unsafe and incorrect turn. It also claims that Brussels Transport failed to take steps to ensure that the driver was competent and that Sofina failed to ensure the safety of pedestrians around Fearmans.
“Given that this case is currently before the courts, we are unable to comment at this time other than to say that the allegations contained in the allegation against Sofina are unproven and Sofina will strongly defend this case,” Sofina said. . in an email.
Neither the truck driver’s lawyer nor Brussels Transport responded to requests for comment.
Russell, a 65-year-old activist, demonstrated outside the slaughterhouse west of Toronto on June 19, 2020, as she had been doing every week for years. She and some friends, as part of the Toronto Pig Save activist group, protested against controversial provincial legislation that had just been passed, which increased the fines for violating farms and food processing facilities.
The bill also made it illegal to block trucks with livestock. The bill appeared in part to target Toronto Pig Save, whose proponents for years had filmed and given water to pigs inside transport trucks as they approached slaughter. They call it “witnessing.”
Since the death of his wife, Powell has lived with anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.
He was not there at the time, but Russell’s friends have described how she died under a wheel on the truck. He has seen video of the aftermath.
“I see it every night when my head hits the pillow,” he said.
His friends wonder how he is doing.
“I’ve been practicing a bit,” he said, his voice fading.
In 2014, Powell lost his 29-year-old son, Zachary. He can still see ambulance personnel hammering on his boy’s chest as he was driven into an ambulance on a stretcher. Zachary’s heart had given up.
Powell uses his family’s strength to move on after the losses.
He credits his second son, Joshua, for keeping him up when he was down and helping him take the decades-long animal rights struggle his wife was waging.
Last week on Father’s Day, he and Joshua donated a bench in an animal sanctuary north of Toronto to honor Russell. It reminds Powell of a bench in Zachary’s name in a Hamilton park.
He and Joshua have also launched the Regan Russell Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to keeping her voice alive by funding and supporting the fight against the law she had fought for.
The Foundation seeks to intervene in a constitutional challenge to the laws of Animal Justice.
“It gives us a tool to fight bad legislation,” he said.
“I have hope and strength, hope that something like that fund puts a voice for animals on the floor of government and strength by hearing Regan’s voice heard.”
Every week, activists gather to protest outside Fearman’s Pork. But now they stand on the median, where the trucks stop at the lights – away from the place where Russell died – to provide water for the pigs.
“I will always honor her, and I will stand for what she stood for until I die,” Powell said.
This report from The Canadian Press was first published on June 25, 2022.