IBEW members across Canada will take time to attend or host events to mark April 28, the National Day of Mourning. Every year Local Unions across the country pay their respect to, and remember, the thousands of workers who have been killed, injured or suffered illness because of work-related incidents. It is a day when we honour those lost, and the many families and friends who have been deeply affected by these tragedies. Every worker has the right to return home safely at the end of every work day, a principle the IBEW was founded on back in 1891.
The Canadian Labour Congress marked this as the 25th anniversary of the Westray Mine Disaster, calling on the Government to better enforce the Westray Law which holds employers accountable for the safety of their workers.
Below is a list of some of the events taking place across the country, check with your Local Union office to find out about Day of Mourning events being planned in your area.
BRITISH COLUMBIA: Learn the details about ceremonies and place a flower in dedication of a worker at dayofmourning.bc.ca
ALBERTA: Workers’ Compensation Board of Alberta and the Alberta Construction Safety Association
SASKATCHEWAN: WorkSafe Saskatchewan
ONTARIO: Workers Health & Safety Centre (listing of ceremonies) and Workplace Safety & Insurance Board (WSIB): Mark the day by lighting a virtual candle to show your support
MANITOBA: Manitoba Federation of Labour
NOVA SCOTIA: Workers’ Compensation Board of Nova Scotia’s dayofmourning.ns.ca.
PEI: Worker’s Compensation Board of PEI
NEW BRUNSWICK: WorkSafeNB (English | French)
NORTHWEST TERRITORIES AND NUNAVUT: Workers’ Safety and Compensation Commission
YUKON: Yukon Federation of Labour
Statistics and beyond
The most recent statistics from the Association of Workers’ Compensation Boards of Canada (AWCBC) tell us that in 2015, 852 workplace deaths were recorded in Canada. Among those dead were four young workers aged fifteen to nineteen years; and another eleven workers aged twenty to twenty-four years.
Add to these fatalities the 232,629 claims accepted for lost time due to a work-related injury or disease, including 8,155 from young workers aged fifteen to nineteen, and the fact that these statistics only include what is reported and accepted by the compensation boards, and it is safe to say that the total number of workers impacted is even higher.
What these numbers don’t show is just how many people are directly affected by these workplace tragedies. Each worker death impacts the loved ones, families, friends and coworkers they leave behind, changing all of their lives forever.
The National Day of Mourning is not only a day to remember and honour those lives lost or injured due to a workplace tragedy, but also a day to renew the commitment to improve health and safety in the workplace and prevent further injuries, illnesses and deaths.
On April 28th the Canadian flag will fly at half-mast on Parliament Hill and on all federal government buildings. Employers and workers will observe Day of Mourning in a variety of ways. Some light candles, lay wreaths, wear commemorative pins, ribbons or black armbands, and pause for a moment of silence at 11:00 a.m.
In 1991, eight years after the day of remembrance was launched by the Canadian Labour Congress, 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 about 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).
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 to thrive.