National Day of Mourning: Remembering those who died, were injured or made ill from the jobs and commit to preventing workplace tragedies

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Ontario Construction Report staff writer

Canadian flags on Parliament Hill and at Queen’s Park flew at half-mast on April 28, in remembrance of workers who were killed, injured or became ill.

The National Day of Mourning is held annually, traditionally with public ceremonies and remembrances. Due to COVID-19, the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) hosted a virtual event on YouTube.

Threads of Life: Remembering her dad on the Day of Mourning

Participants observed a moment of silence at 11 a.m. before sharing stories about how workplace tragedies have touched peoples’ lives.

The Canadian Labour Congress established April 28 as the National Day of Mourning in Canada in 1984 to remember and honour those who have died, been injured or suffered illness in the workplace. It is officially recognized in about 100 countries worldwide.

The Labourers’ International Union of North America (LiUNA) stands united again this year to honour men and women who have lost their lives or have suffered injury or illness due to a work-related tragedy.

“We stand in solidarity with the family members and loved ones as we mourn and remember our fallen brothers and sisters who tragically lost their lives at work. We acknowledge the sacrifices of the men and women who left their homes to earn a living and provide for their families, only never to return,” said Joseph Mancinelli, LiUNA international vice-president and regional manager of Central and Eastern Canada.

“The price of going to work should never be life itself. LiUNA remains committed in the collective fight for protective measures to ensure our brothers and sisters return home safely at the end of each and every workday. Over this past year, LiUNA members have worked on the frontlines in the response to the COVID-19 pandemic. They are the men and women who build and strengthen our communities and who care for our loved ones.”

The most recent statistics from the Association of Workers’ Compensation Boards of Canada (AWCBC) tell us that in 2019, 925 workplace fatalities were recorded in Canada. 882 were male workers, and 43 were female workers. Among these deaths were 29 young workers aged 15-24.

Add to these fatalities the 271,806 accepted claims (an increase from 264,438 the previous year) for lost time due to a work-related injury or disease, including 33,615 from workers aged 15-24, and the fact that these statistics only include what is reported and accepted by the compensation boards, there is no doubt that the total number of workers impacted is even greater.

And it’s not just these numbers on which we need to reflect. With each worker tragedy there are loved ones, family members, friends and co-workers who are directly affected, left behind, and deeply impacted – their lives also forever changed.

In 1991, the Parliament of Canada passed the Workers Mourning Day Act making April 28 an official Day of Mourning. Today the Day of Mourning has since spread to more than 100 countries around the world and is recognized as Workers’ Memorial Day, and as International Workers’ Memorial Day by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC).

It is the hope of Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) that the annual observance of this day will help strengthen the resolve to establish safe and healthy conditions in the workplace, and prevent further injuries, illnesses, and deaths. As much as this is a day to remember the dead, it is also a call to protect the living and make work a place where people can thrive.

As workers reflect on those killed or injured at work, xx says it is a good time to talk about strengthening workers’ rights – the first step in protecting workers from injury, illness and death.

“While we honour the fallen, we must continue to work with all levels of government and industry to ensure that our workers are protected from any potential risk of harm. We affirm our efforts to establish and enforce the highest industry health and safety standards to prevent injury, illness and death in the workplace,” he said.

It’s also important to reconfirm the commitment to remain vigilant against COVID-19 at work and in the community.

“Workers, families, and communities across Canada continue to come together to overcome many obstacles of the pandemic, including fatigue. But we must not give up. With the rapid and continued progression of multiple COVID-19  variants, we must remain vigilant in all efforts to protect one another, especially our frontline workers who stand at the vanguard in the fight against the virus,” he said.

“LiUNA Members across various sectors have seen firsthand the devastating impact COVID-19 continues to have on workers and families and we must work together to support the men and women who toil tirelessly to protect our loved ones and communities.”

Mike Yorke, president, Carpenters’ District Council of Ontario (CDCO), echoes the need for vigilance on worksites and a focus on safety every day.

“April 28, the International Day of Mourning is an important day for those in labour – the opportunity to honour those that have died at their work, those that have been injured at work and to fight like hell for the living,” Yorke said.

“This year more than ever, as we are in the midst of a global Covid pandemic and our front line/essential workers need our support and respect for all that they are doing for us.”

Safety advice: Take the time to do everything possible to ensure safe workplaces – every day

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