Day of Mourning perspective on the hazards of fire fighting.

March 18, 2024

The Day of Mourning is an annual reminder of the importance of workplace safety and the precious value of human lives. On April 28th each year, the communities in Yukon set aside time to bring attention to these matters and recognize our collective responsibility to make sure workers come home at the end of each day to their loved ones.

After a few years of no public gatherings due to the pandemic, 2023 was the first Ceremony held in-person at the Yukon Workers Memorial in Shipyards Park, Whitehorse, Yukon. The sights and sounds that day included bagpipes, drumming, candles, flowers, and a distinct blended Honour Guard with representation from IAFF (International Association of Fire Fighters), RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police), and KDFN (Kwanlin Dun First Nation) Corrections Officer.

During the ceremony, pledges are made from five distinct sectors of our society, each with a responsibility to keep workers safe. The monument, unveiled in 2016, stands with five central pillars representing workers, employers, the community, governance and health-care providers. As part of the 2023 Day of Mourning Ceremony, powerful words were shared by Jorgen Ponsioen, Secretary of Local 2217 of the International Association of Fire Fighters, which we are sharing here with you today, in honour of the service of front line responders.

“The Day of Mourning is a solemn occasion that is observed annually on April 28th. It is a day to remember and honour all workers who have lost their lives, suffered injuries or illnesses on the job. For Whitehorse Fire Fighters, the Day of Mourning holds special significance as it serves as a reminder of the dangers firefighters face while carrying out
their duties. Firefighting is a hazardous occupation that involves working in dangerous and unpredictable situations. Whitehorse Fire Fighters risk their lives to protect the public and property, often putting themselves in harm’s way to ensure the safety of others. Unfortunately, this comes at a price, and fire fighters are also susceptible to occupational cancers and illnesses directly related to fire fighting.

We have some of our own members that have fought and lost battles with cancers, as well as several currently engaged in ongoing struggles with other job related health struggles that they are losing. The Whitehorse Fire Fighters along with all first responders throughout the Yukon use this opportunity to honour the memory of all workers who have lost their lives in the line of duty and to raise awareness of the risks faced every day.

The Day of Mourning also serves as a reminder of the importance of workplace safety and we appreciate the seriousness our employer takes with our safety. We are committed to working together and will always advocate for safer working conditions for all. By honouring the memory of those who have lost their lives, the Whitehorse Fire Fighters hope to inspire future generations of first responders to continue their mission of protecting and serving the public while prioritizing their own safety. On behalf of first responders throughout the Yukon, I, Jorgen Ponsioen, Secretary of Local 2217 of the International Association of Fire Fighters, commit to making our workplaces safe. (light the candle).”

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