On April 28 we gather to remember workers killed by or suffering from workplace disease or injury. First held in 1984 by the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), Day of Mourning was adopted officially by the Canadian Labour Congress. It is a day when workers commemorate those who have died – and recognize the lasting impact on their families and communities. Day of Mourning also strengthens their commitment to health and safety protection and coverage for all workers. This message is carried in the inscription on many of the labour monuments marking April 28: “Fight for the Living, Mourn for the Dead”.
In Dec. 1990 the Federal Government passed the Workers Mourning Day Act declaring April 28 a national Day of Mourning. The Day has since been adopted – often known as Workers Memorial Day – by approximately 100 countries around the world. For more on the history of the event, see the USW video Day of Mourning: The Untold Story.
The latest statistics from the Association of Workers’ Compensation Boards of Canada (AWCBC), which represent only reported, allowed compensation claims, record 1081 reported Canadian fatalities in 2021 (419 in Ontario, up from 328 in 2020). Studies suggest the more accurate number of Ontario workers killed annually by all work hazards to be far greater. The true numbers of job-related fatalities are dramatically underreported and fail to reflect thousands of deaths — such as workers exempt from coverage, stress-induced suicides, commuting fatalities and occupational disease not linked back to the workplace environment.
2023: This year sees the return of in-person commemorations. Check with your local labour council for an event near you – and suggestions on actions you can take. See also the Workers’ Health & Safety Centre’s guide to worker memorials around the province.
ONIWG VP Peter Page speaks at Woodbridge Day of Mourning 2017
- Workers’ Health & Safety Centre. 2023 Apr. Fact sheet: A More Accurate Picture of Workers Disability, Disease and Death.
- Tucker, Sean & Anya Keefe. 2022 Apr. 28. 2022 Report on Work Fatality and Injury Rates in Canada. Regina: University of Regina
- Bittle, Steven, Ashley Chen & Jasmine Hébert. 2018. “Work-Related Deaths in Canada.” Labour/Le Travail 82: 159-187
- Ontario. Ministry of Labour. 2019 Mar. Occupational Health & Safety in Ontario: Appendix A: Statistics
- Wigmore, Dorothy. 2017 Apr. 28. “The History Behind Canada’s National Day of Mourning.” RankandFile.ca
- Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety. National Day of Mourning – April 28
- 28april.org: Remember the dead, Fight Like Hell for the Living – International Workers’ Memorial Day
- Page, Peter. 2015 Summer. “The Big Book of Injured Workers: a Diary”. Our Times (An injured worker’s personal account of the Woodbridge Day of Mourning event)