Day of Mourning, April 28, 2009
This year marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of the National Day of Mourning as proclaimed by the Canadian Labour Congress in 1984. That date coincided with the seventieth anniversary of the first Ontario Worker’s Compensation Act approved by the government.
On February 1, 1991, April 28th was subsequently enshrined by Royal Statute as, a ‘Day of Mourning for Person’s Killed or Injured in the Workplace’. The Statute declares that, “it is desirable that Canadians should designate a day of mourning to remember workers killed, disabled or injured in the workplace and workers afflicted with industrial disease.” This day is critical to public awareness and support for our collective efforts to save lives.
Although recognized workplace time-loss injuries recorded by all Provincial/Territorial Workers Compensation Boards across the country in the year 2007 stood reduced, down by 11,853 from 2006 to 317,524. Clearly more tragic was the “Total Number of Fatalities Accepted” for the same year nationwide. The Association of Workers Compensation Boards of Canada (AWCBC) reports an increase over 2006 of 79 deaths for a national total of 1055 fatalities at work or on account of industrial causes. That is how many Canadian mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters and friends never made it home alive from work or died from workplace causes in the year 2007. Twenty years of fighting workplace accident injury and fatality; and the sad fact remains that each year brings new statistics representing the on-going travesty, heartache and hardship of personal loss from the workplace.
We can take heart in the fact that efforts of occupational health and safety activists everywhere are reflected in lost time injury results, but severity of accidents and resulting deaths remain abhorrent. Canada remains one of the few nations where workplace deaths are allowed to increase year on year. The sad fact is, twenty five years ago we mourned the loss of fewer workers than we do this day!
The resulting cost in human life and suffering is tragic and heartrending. The cost in dollars to the Canadian economy remains staggering. Public awareness must continue to play a major role.
Many Local lodges plan Day of Mourning Events. Many more attend those events that are staged by local labour councils. Please heed the call by our International asking that we all encourage maximum participation.
Major gains have been made with the adoption of legislation that corporations, and those in positions responsible for the direction of workers, be subject to criminal liability for workplace accountability. In addition to legislative gains, improvements are also reflected in collective bargaining. However, in light of the foregoing statistics, much more needs to be done.
‘Mourn the Dead, Fight for the Living!’