On April 28 those who have been killed, made ill or injured as a result of occupational disease or work-related accidents are commemorated around the world in ceremonies of remembrance and action. In Canada, the Day of Mourning, launched in 1984 by the Canadian Labour Congress, is held on the day Meredith’s comprehensive workers’ compensation act passed third reading in the Ontario Legislative Assembly.
Association of Workers Compensation Boards of Canada (AWCBC) statistics record 281 Ontario workplace deaths in 2015 and 51,570 lost-time injuries. As these numbers represent only reported claims which have been accepted for compensation that year by the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board, and exclude industries, occupations and types of injury/illness not covered by the workers’ compensation system, the true toll suffered by workers and their families is significantly underestimated.
The Ministry of Labour‘s 2015/2016 report on occupational health and safety shows 68% of allowed fatality claims were for occupational diseases – and that deaths related to occupational diseases are increasing. Recent coverage of miners’ exposure to McIntyre Powder (aluminum dust) and General Electric Peterborough workers’ exposure to a “toxic soup of chemicals” illustrates starkly that occupational diseases, many of which do not develop until long after exposure, are widely under-recognized and under-reported.
2017 marks the 25th anniversary of the Westray Mine disaster. Canadian labour on this Day of Mourning is united in the call to “Remember Westray. Enforce the law” – and demand that government hold corporations, directors, and managers accountable when they fail to protect the safety of workers. (See Canadian Labour Congress message and petition )
While we mourn the dead and lives lost, it is a time also to renew the fight for the living by demanding safe, healthy workplaces with adequate support and compensation for those made ill or injured on the job.
- Day of Mourning events across Ontario (list prepared by Workers Health & Safety Centre)