Statement on the National Day of Mourning April 28

National Day of Mourning April 28, candles

April 28 is the Day of Mourning, a day to remember workers who have died or become injured because of their work. It is also a time to renew our commitment to building safe workplaces and fighting for the safety of all workers.

Close to 1,000 workers in Canada die each year in workplace incidents.

This is a staggering statistic, but those who are lost must be more than one number among many.

They are our lost colleagues, friends, and loved ones. Families are forever changed and forever carrying grief.

To date in 2024, Unifor mourns the loss of MWF Local 1 member Jamie Knight who was struck by a payloader clearing snow at the Halifax Shipyard on February 23, a transport driver member of Local 4209 at Kindersley Transport who was killed in a head-on collision with another transport truck on March 6, and two fish harvester members of FFAW-Unifor who died on April 21.

Unifor honours their memory by recommitting to our work to improve health and safety across all workplaces. This means pushing authorities, regulators, and employers to make worker safety a top-line priority for everyone, from the C-suite to the shop floor and beyond.

Unifor activists are transforming workplaces, pushing for positive changes to priorities, programs, and protections every day. The work of health and safety activists is challenging and often encounters resistance from employers who put profits ahead of safety. Health and safety work is essential work that must never be neglected or relegated to the sidelines. It is at the heart of what we do as a union.

On March 31, 2024, Unifor marked the 20th anniversary of the enactment of the Westray Law which amended the Criminal Code of Canada. Unions campaigned for this law for a decade following a preventable explosion that killed 26 miners at the Westray Mine in Nova Scotia. These amendments made it possible for corporations and executives to be held criminally responsible for actions or negligence that led to a worker being injured or killed.

And yet, this legal tool is not used to its full power and potential, robbing many families of justice and allowing corporations to continue cutting corners with minimal repercussions.

Since its enactment in 2004, there have been only 10 successful convictions of a corporation or individual, despite tens of thousands of worker deaths.

This must change. Police authorities, Crown prosecutors and safety regulators must effectively use the Westray Law or corporations will continue to escape serious responsibility for their neglect.

So today, let us remember our rights, enforce our rights, and continue to support each other as trade unionists to build stronger safety cultures and ultimately a world where every worker goes home safe and healthy at the end of the work day.