National Day of Mourning

April 28, 2019

April 28th is a very important day. It is the day we commemorate workers whose lives have been lost or injured in the workplace. This National Day of Mourning, held annually on April 28, was officially recognized by the federal government in 1991, though its beginning was launched eight years earlier by the Canadian Labour Congress.

The Day of Mourning is now recognized in approximately 80 countries around the world. As is the custom on all National Days of Mourning, the Canadian Flag on Parliament Hill will fly at half-mast. Throughout the country, workers will light candles, don ribbons and black armbands and observe moments of silence.

Please participate and strive throughout the year to prevent workplace injuries, illnesses and deaths.

* The most recent statistics from the Association of Workers' Compensation Boards of Canada (AWCBC) tell us that in 2016, 905 workplace deaths were recorded in Canada. Among those dead were 6 young workers aged 15-19; and another 20 workers aged 20-24.

Add to these fatalities the 241,508 claims accepted for lost time due to a work-related injury or disease, including 29,588 from workers aged 15-24, 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.

Every day workers leave their home and their family expecting to see them later that same day. They do not leave home expecting to die.

The international symbol for Health and Safety is “THE CANARY IN THE CAGE” and people have asked what that represents. In the 19th century, miners would take a caged canary into the mines with them. Canaries are more sensitive to airborne hazards and the absence of oxygen than people. If the canaries were overcome by hazards, it was a sign to evacuate the mine fast.

Unfortunately, as the numbers indicate, humans have now become the canaries in the workplace and we must recognize that when every single day in Canada almost three people die at work. Something must be done. Remember the slogan:

Mourn The Dead, Fight For The Living

It is as much a day to remember the dead as it is a call to protect the living.

It’s your life. Don't leave work without it.

Doug Gaetz
Chair, Health and Safety Committee

* Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety