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Members mark Day of Mourning with sadness and pride


A message from the OPSEU Health and Safety Unit

Once again we approach April 28, the National Day of Mourning. On this day, workers, unions, families, organizations, and community partners remember those killed or seriously injured from workplace causes. Workers die and are injured from workplace hazards that are not always apparent. The horrible toll taken by occupational disease is not always related to unsafe workplaces. Workers’ deaths continue to go largely unrecognized — except by the surviving family, friends and colleagues.

Lack of recognition that injury, death, and occupational disease are related to work causes a domino effect: workers do not receive workers’ compensation, and governments and workplaces are not motivated to prevent hazardous situations. This allows workplace hazards and toxins to continue unchecked, left to kill and maim other workers. Work should promote dignity and be healthy and safe, not cause death, debilitating injuries and diseases.   

OPSEU members mark this day with sadness and pride: sadness, because so many preventable deaths, injuries and diseases continue to strike workers down; and pride, because OPSEU members help make their workplaces safer through participation as worker activists – in local union leadership roles, as health and safety representatives, and on joint health and safety committees.

The last year has seen legislation passed to provide some workers with automatic compensation coverage for post-traumatic stress disorder, and a bill was tabled to recognize the Day of Mourning by lowering flags to half-mast. Across Canada there is a call for our country to ban asbestos products. These are steps toward our real goal of preventing harm to everyone at work.

We use the National Day of Mourning to re-dedicate our efforts to achieve healthier and safer workplaces and to seek justice for all lost and injured workers. Unfortunately, the drive for profit often wins over the need to invest resources in occupational health and safety. And government indifference sentences workers to a lifetime of hazardous exposures that are still causing horrific injuries and death. We do not accept this as a reality and continue our efforts to be safe and healthy at work. We do this by securing our hard-won rights and repeating our calls for tougher enforcement of health and safety laws; creation and adoption of ergonomic regulations and standards for legally mandated training; and a province-wide strategy to address the epidemic of occupational disease.  

So on this April 28, more than one hundred years after April 28, 1914 when Canada passed the first law to compensate workers for workplace injuries, we recognize the work that still needs to be done to make sure that workers go to work and come home alive and healthy.

Attend a Day of Mourning Event in your area. Click here for a list of locations.