On April 28, 2022, the National Day of Mourning, workplaces across Canada will pause, reflect, and remember those who lost their lives or suffered an injury or illness due to their work. The day also highlights the importance of safe work and preventing further tragedies.
Unfortunately, once again, due top Covid 19, we are unable to observe the National Day of Mourning in person. Instead, we invite you to watch a series of videos from labour leaders, health and safety activists and members of families whose loved ones have been affected by workplace accidents. There are also a few pictures from two of our affiliates.
International Day of Mourning 2022 /Virtual Observance
Thank you for taking time today to pause, mourn, reflect and recommit. My name is Mike Jee, for the past 5 years, I have been a chairperson of the WDLC Day of Mourning Committee. Our committee is comprised of health and safety advocates from across the County. We are fortunate to have a Workers Health and Safety Center advisor there for support. When Covid hit in 2020, we identified the hazard, assessed the risk to everyone involved and recommended the safest method of maintaining the essence of our local observance. For the past three years, that has meant a virtual observance. As health and safety advocates the process is second nature, as we are committed to the precautionary principle outlined in the Occupational Health and Safety Act 25(2) (h) “take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of a worker;”.
So, what is reasonable? After I pause and mourn, that very question frustrates me while I reflect. How can one death be reasonable? If one death isn’t reasonable then what would we say about 1000? What rationale can an employer use to justify injuring a worker? What rationale can an employer use to justify the loss of life? In Ontario, we have rights, laws, regulations, codes, standards, systems, minimum training requirements and provincial level enforcement/penalties. With all these protections why are workers dying? How many workers have to die or be injured before standards are established, raised and enforced, that prevent loss of life?
Sadly, we live in a time in Canada where roughly 1000 workers, through no fault of their own do not come home from work. While tens of thousands more workers die due to occupational illness and disease, most of which along with their families endured the debilitating and often diminished quality of life in the years leading up to their death. These numbers have been relatively consistent for the past few decades, despite our best collective efforts to address the issues. It should be mentioned that annually that is also, tens of thousands of families, workplaces, communities that are devastated by these traumatic events. How can our Minister of Labour justify these consistant numbers?
Our provincial government had committed to increasing enforcement officers, prior to “opening us up for business” when Doug Ford came into power. Shortly after, a hiring freeze put a stop to this. It wasn’t until mid-pandemic when the public became outraged we saw the freeze thaw. By the way, if you follow the link (as of today), you won’t see the words “health or safety” on the page, I wonder if that is reasonable? The number of enforcement officers alone will not change the circumstances we face, when the penalties are not enforced to the fullest. You see, there are penalties that could be imposed that would deter companies and their executives being unreasonable, up to and including imprisonment in the case of a fatality at work. Employers know these laws have rarely been imposed and when they are, supervisors and lower-level executives will feel the brunt. So, what can we do to ensure we are safe and healthy at work? How do we protect ourselves and others from hazards?
We commit or recommit every year and end up with the same outcome, which is a major reason the numbers are not significantly higher. The steps to eradicate workplace fatalities will involve a shift in the way employers value their employees, customers, profits and their freedom. Our elected officials and the Minister of Labour will have to “reopen Ontario up for Safe and Healthy business;“ as well as strictly enforce, penalize and prosecute employers who cause the death of a worker. Mandatory in depth hazard based health and safety courses in 9th grade as part of the compulsory course load would ensure future generations understand the laws and are comfortable refusing unsafe work and save lives. We must commit and recommit to exercise our right to refuse unsafe work. Commit to talking to our Doctors about the work we do and how it effects our bodies. We must commit to challenging the way we have always done things and take a hard look at the existing hazards. Tell your supervisor, manager and employer about hazards, improvements and accidents. Call the ministry of labour or complete an online form, and report issues raised that are not addressed. Commit to talking about safety and health with family, friends and coworkers.
I would like to thank the families that have shared their lost loved ones with us, the committee, the speakers and politicians for supporting the promotion of a safer tomorrow, and grieving with us here today. Over these past few years we have committed to maintaining and building on the strong and solid foundation built by Health and Safety advocates like Rolly Marentette, Tracey Edwards and John Arnold. This year the United Way facilitated a joint commemoration with our American labour council, that will be fully integrated in our live observance next year, tremendous thanks to Leilani for facilitating and driving this welcomed addition. Over the next 12-15 months, together with the support of labour, and City Councillor Kieran McKenzie, we will ensure our Windsor monument is accessible with the addition of a concrete/paved walkway to the monument. We will also be completing projects stalled due to covid, including the installation of a commemorate bench at the monument, in honor of our mentor Roland (Rolly) Marentette and have created certificates of appreciation for those that contribute to the Day of Mourning Observation. It has truly been my honour to serve our community with this hardworking committee in this capacity through the covid 19 pandemic.
Please, demand safe and stay healthy!
WDLC DOM Co-chair; Unifor Local 195 - H&S Chair/WSIB rep.
A message from Fr. William Capitano - WDLC Chaplain
On this national day of the mourning in which we remember all those killed or hurt in their workplaces the remedy for the situation, I would recommend that we support and encourage labor unions because; (1) Unions are instruments for creating a better social order. (2) Unions are a necessary power group (3) Unions defend human dignity (4) Unions allow workers to stand on their own feet.
To conclude then, respecting and supporting unions should help to prevent workers being killed or injured in their workplaces.
I also want to thank Father Michael Ryan and his book SOLIDARITY for pointing out the effects of unions. The four points I got on the value of unions I got from Father Michael Ryan's book Solidarity Christian Social Teaching and Canadian Society.
Thank you and God bless all of you.
A Moment of Silence
Jada Malott - Youth Activist
Antonella Ciampa - ETFO, Day of Mourning Committee Co-Chair
Janice Hunter OPSEU 154 & Joshua Goldthorpe - How many have we lost, what can we do?
Angela Preocanin, First Vice-President, Ontario Nurses Association
speaks of the impact of Covid 19 on the mental health of Health Care Workers
Maui Cardoso speaks of memories of his dad, Claudio Cardoso
Kieran McKenzie - Windsor City Councillor Ward 9 - The importance of remaining vigilant with respect to workplace safety
Workers Health and Safety Training Centre - Justice Demands More
OSSTF District 9 - A day in the life of a teacher
Joint Day of Mourning riverside ceremony with Metro Detroit Labour Council,
with message from Lisa Gretzky MPP
Pictures from some of our affiliate locals
UNIFOR Local 195