Last Friday at the annual Health & Safety Activist Awards dinner, two of our own were recognized. Organized by the Toronto & York Labour Council, Workers Health & Safety Centre and Central Ontario Building Trades Council, the awards recognize the efforts of activists who have made a difference in the prevention of work-related injury and disease, and the work of those who have led the struggle for justice and fair compensation for injured workers.
A powerful voice
Winner of this year’s injured worker activist award winner was Heather Cherron Von Atzigen who, in the words of presenter Aidan Macdonald, “is someone who has touched the lives of many people in this room in a very profound way.” As both an injured worker herself and a facilitator with Toronto’s Injured Workers’ Speakers School, Heather has a direct hand in fostering the emergence of new generations of injured worker activists and leaders. Through her instruction on workers’ compensation history, worker rights and speaking skills, injured workers learn how to be strong and vocal advocates for the injured worker movement striving to improve the compensation system. Well-known also as a lead singer (and composer) with the Justice Singers choir, Heather contributes tirelessly through her powerful speeches at rallies and other community events, lobbying MPs and strategizing. We congratulate her for being such an inspiring force in the injured worker movement!
A tireless and extraordinary advocate
Injured Workers Community (IWC) Legal Clinic’s Orlando Buonastella was honoured with a surprise award for his decades fighting to bring justice for injured workers through legal casework, law reform, community development and legal education. Whether participating in outreach education sessions and training workshops across the province, representing and guiding injured workers through difficult appeals, developing the Injured Worker Speaker School, preserving the history and strength of the injured worker movement, campaigning for positive change in workers’ compensation policy and law, or creating vivid street theatre (!) , Orlando’s collaborative, inclusive and empathetic approach have earned him the respect and affection of not only injured workers and colleagues.