Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety
Marked annually in Canada on April 28, the National Day of Mourning is dedicated to remembering those who have lost their lives, or suffered injury or illness on the job or due to a work-related tragedy.
This year, this day takes on extra meaning as we express our gratitude to the healthcare workers on the front lines, grocery, transport, and service staff helping to keep communities running, and all the other essential personnel who have answered the call during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Your dedication and efforts are beyond measure.
The National Day of Mourning is not only a day to remember and honour those lives lost or injured due to a workplace tragedy, but also a day to collectively renew our commitment to improve health and safety in the workplace and prevent further injuries, illnesses and deaths.
Traditionally on April 28th the Canadian flag has flown at half-mast on Parliament Hill and on all federal government buildings. Employers and workers have observed Day of Mourning in a variety of ways over the years. Some have lit candles, laid wreaths, worn commemorative pins, ribbons or black armbands, and paused for a moment of silence.
In light of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic we encourage organizations, communities, and individuals to practice physical distancing and consider holding or supporting a virtual event, or simply pause at 11:00 am on April 28 for a moment of silence.
Beyond the Statistics
The most recent statistics from the Association of Workers’ Compensation Boards of Canada (AWCBC) tell us that in 2018, 1027 workplace fatalities were recorded in Canada, an increase of 76 from the previous year. Among these deaths were 27 young workers aged 15-24.
Add to these fatalities the 264,438 accepted claims (an increase from 251,508 the previous year) for lost time due to a work-related injury or disease, including 33,058 from workers aged 15-24, and the fact that these statistics only include what is reported and accepted by the compensation boards, there is no doubt that the total number of workers impacted is even greater.
And it’s not just these numbers on which we need to reflect. With each worker tragedy there are loved ones, family members, friends and co-workers who are directly affected, left behind, and deeply impacted – their lives also forever changed.
In 1991, eight years after the day of remembrance was launched by the Canadian Labour Congress, the Parliament of Canada passed the Workers Mourning Day Act making April 28 an official Day of Mourning. Today the Day of Mourning has since spread to more than 100 countries around the world and is recognized as Workers’ Memorial Day, and as International Workers’ Memorial Day by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC).
It is the hope of CCOHS that the annual observance of this day will help strengthen the resolve to establish safe and healthy conditions in the workplace, and prevent further injuries, illnesses and deaths. As much as this is a day to remember those who have died, it is also a call for us to protect the health and safety of those who work during the most vulnerable of times.
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