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Tribute to Fergal Nolan (1941-2016)

As Business Manager of the Provincial Building and Construction Trades Council of Ontario, I was deeply saddened at the passing of Fergal Nolan. On behalf of all construction workers in the province of Ontario, I would like to extend my heartfelt condolences to Fergal’s family.

In addition to being a friend and a respected colleague, Fergal was a stalwart champion of health and safety who committed his life’s work towards improving the working conditions of men and women across Canada.

Born in Dublin, Ireland in 1941, Fergal moved to Canada as a teenager. Demonstrating a strong interest in academia, he excelled at the Universities of Saskatoon and Edmonton, earning his Bachelor of Arts degree with full honours and was awarded the Rutherford Gold medal as best student in English Literature. He was also the recipient of the Governor General’s medal as the best overall graduating student. Studying at the prestigious University of Oxford where he met his wife Stella, Fergal graduated with a D. Phil in 1977.

He taught English Literature at the University of Toronto before joining the Ministry of Northern Affairs as a senior policy advisor responsible for social and health policy and Aboriginal affairs.
Fergal Nolan was a founding member of the Radiation Safety Institute of Canada (RSIC) where he served as President and Chief Executive Officer. In that capacity, Fergal was instrumental in allaying Building Trades worker concerns about an Alpha radiation exposure incident that took place at a nuclear power facility in 2009. Through his leadership and passion, Fergal’s ability to promote his philosophy of “good science in plain language” culminated in the publication of an independent RSIC report which identified the causes of the incident and recommended corrective action with a view to preventing future similar events.

Fergal’s eloquence and compassion will never be forgotten by the workers he served. He presented at countless meetings and lectures designed to educate the construction industry about radiation safety, and the Building Trades were honoured to host him as a workshop presenter at our 2011 Convention. His 30 year career at the RSIC was recognized in 2012 by the Premier of Ontario who awarded Fergal with a Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal for his contributions to radiation safety in Canada and abroad.

Fergal is survived by his wife, Stella Dahlin, his children Brendan, Aidan and Kirsten and his extended family and many friends. May he rest in peace.

Patrick J. Dillon,
Business Manager