On April 28th, the National Day of Mourning, we remember those who have lost their lives, been injured on the job or become sick because of their work. The Day of Mourning is also a day to renew our commitment to protecting workers and to preventing further workplace tragedies.
The pandemic has reminded us of the significant link between workers’ health and workplace occupational health and safety precautions. Unfortunately, we have also repeatedly witnessed government and employer actions focused on profit over the safety of workers. Insufficient regulation has left health care, food service, retail and other “front line” workers vulnerable to COVID-19 infection on the job.
Today, our hearts are with the health care workers, migrant workers, grocery store and slaughterhouse employees who became sick or lost their lives after contracting COVID-19 on the job, and with their friends, families and co-workers. We think also of the workers who bravely refused or spoke out against unsafe working conditions and have faced unlawful reprisal, including job loss and deportation.
We remain dedicated to fighting alongside workers and unions for improved health and safety for all workers, through regulation, collective bargaining and public pressure.
History of the National Day of Mourning
In 1984, The Canadian Labour Congress established April 28 as the National Day of Mourning. The proposal was made by Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) National Health and Safety Committee, which proposed a dedicated day be made to honour and remember workers who have been killed, injured, or suffered occupational illness. April 28 was chosen as the National Day of Mourning as this date shares the anniversary of the Ontario Worker’s Compensation Act, which was originally approved by government in 1914.
In February 1991, the Day of Mourning was enacted in national legislation. Also identified as Workers’ Memorial Day, the Day of Mourning is recognized in over 100 countries worldwide.
By the Numbers
The most recent available statistics come from the Association of Workers’ Compensation Boards of Canada (AWCBC) 2019 records. Annually, approximately 1000 workers die and 250,000 suffer from work related injuries or diseases. These numbers reflect reported and approved compensation claims. The total number of impacted workers is likely much greater than what has been reported.
These numbers also fail to recognize the impact on a worker’s loved ones. Each workplace death affects the worker as well as their family, friends and community who are left to grieve their loss –and to face the serious economic repercussions of the loss of a needed income.
We encourage both employers and workers to observe this day by holding a moment of silence at 11:00 am on April 28th. In addition to observing a moment of silence, here are numerous ways to acknowledge the Day of Mourning including lighting candles, laying wreaths, wearing commemorative pins or armbands, and attending public ceremonies.
You can find an event taking place in your area here.