Last Friday Catherine Fenech, a long-time leader in the fight for fair workers’ compensation and better workplace safety, received the award for injured worker activism at Toronto’s Health & Safety Activist Awards event. Her powerful acceptance speech on the toll of workplace injury and disease and the importance of advocacy and support struck a chord with all those present.
“… Catherine has been and is active in health and safety and in fighting for justice for injured workers. Before and after her injury, she was worker co-chair for her union in the Joint Health and Safety Committee at 2 workplaces. She was for many years on the board of directors of the Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers (OHCOW) and is currently on the board of the Centre for research Expertise of the prevention of Musculoskeletal Disorders.
She suffered a permanent soft tissue injury and – all on her own- started and nurtured an international movement called Repetitive Strain Injuries (RSI) awareness Day, which is now proclaimed every last day in February. For someone in pain, fighting her employers for accommodation, left without adequate income, this was an incredible achievement. She has chaired the Toronto RSI awareness day each year for 20 years now and we are proud of this anniversary.
Catherine fights for workers with RSI but also for all injured workers. She spends time in Brampton where she founded the Peel Region Injured Workers Group, and in Toronto where she is on the board of the Injured Workers Community Legal Clinic. She is a vice-president of the Ontario Network of Injured Workers Groups (ONIWG) and active in the Workers’ Comp Is a Right campaign.
She also plays a central role in fighting Doug Ford’s cuts to legal aid, which deny workers the basic help and representation they need.