TORONTO—Today, thousands of workers, friends and families of fallen workers are gathering at ceremonies across Ontario and Canada to take part in the National Day of Mourning for Workers Killed or Injured on the Job.
Unions, associations, companies, organizations and government are also taking part in the solemn day – a day that’s meant to mourn those who were lost and raise awareness that workplace incidents can and should be prevented.
The Canadian flag will fly at half-mast on Parliament Hill and on all federal government buildings. According to the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCHOS), employers and workers will observe the 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 a.m.
The history behind today’s events stems from the Workers Mourning Day Act, which was passed in 1991, eight years after the day of remembrance was launched by the Canadian Labour Congress.
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), the CCHOS states.
According to the Association of Workers’ Compensation Boards of Canada (AWCBC), in 2014, 919 workplace deaths were recorded in Canada — more than 2.5 deaths every single day. Among the 919 dead were 13 young workers aged 15 to 19. There were also 239,643 claims accepted for lost time due to a work-related injury or disease.
As observances take place across the country, several labour organizations and associations are taking the time to mention specific issues that plague the industry.
"Workers have been fighting for health and safety rights for centuries but we know that we won’t stop the carnage in the workplace unless employers come to realize that there will be serious personal consequences if they put workers’ lives in the line of danger," said Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) president Chris Buckley in a statement.
This year, the OFL, along with several other organizations, has joined the Canadian Labour Congress in calling for a total ban on asbestos. According to a release, every year, 145,000 Canadian workers are exposed to asbestos in their workplace and, tragically, over 2,000 are still being diagnosed with often fatal diseases, like mesothelioma and lung cancer. Asbestos has earned the reputation as the number one workplace killer.
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is also joining in supporting the ban.
The Daily Commercial News will be covering the Day of Mourning, providing a special piece on the Italian Fallen Workers Memorial, which officially unveils today after six years of work to make the memorial a reality, the Committee for the Italian Fallen Workers Memorial reports. On Dec. 22, 2015 site preparation was complete and the concrete base was poured behind the Columbus Centre in Toronto. Eleven prefabricated columns will bear the names and dates of each fallen worker discovered by the committee and organized by decade from 1900 onwards.