In 1984, at the Convention of the Canadian Labour Congress, a resolution was passed to proclaim April 28th as the National Day of Mourning to honour those who have been killed or fatally injured on a work site. This day was chosen because, in 1914, Ontario proclaimed the first Workers Compensation Act in Canada. Other labour organisations around the world started recognising the Day of Mourning or Workers Memorial Day as a day for workers to ” put down their tools” and remember their co-workers who died on the job.
After much lobbying by the labour movement, the Canadian Federal Government, in 1991, proclaimed April 28th as the National Day of Mourning through Bill C-223 the “Workers Mourning Day Act”. On this day, across Canada, annual Day of Mourning ceremonies are held to remember those workers who, one day, didn’t go home to their families after work.
April 28th is a true day of mourning for many Yukoners. Last year, in 2014, five workers were killed due to work-related accidents or illnesses. In our territory, with only 37,000 residents, these people are among our neighbours, co-workers and friends. The impact to the community is so severe that it brings to light the true meaning and reason for workplace safety.
Occupational Health and Safety Acts exist in Federal and Yukon’s legislation. Canada’s Criminal Code Bill C-45 “the Westray Bill” states this: “everyone who undertakes, or has the authority, to direct how another person does work or performs a task is under a legal duty to take reasonable steps to prevent bodily harm to that person, or any other person, arising from that work or task. These laws take on workplace conditions and attempt to make workplaces safer. Unfortunately, workplace accidents still occur too frequently and much more work needs to be done to enforce these laws.
The Yukon Federation of Labour is committed to making workplaces safer for all Yukoners through ongoing work lobbying government and ensuring unionised workplaces have access to occupational health and safety training. The Day of Mourning could only be at it’s best when there no candles to light on behalf of deceased workers.
Fight for the living, mourn for the dead. An appropriate statement this April 28th where we light a candle on behalf of those who have died and for those who remember them.
Yukon Federation of Labour