National Day of Mourning
“Mourn for the dead, fight for the living”
April 18, 2012
Every April 28, unions, workers, and organizations in over 100
countries remember workers who have died, were injured or made ill from
workplace causes. We honour them by renewing our fight for the living.
In 2010, more than a thousand workers in Canada lost their lives to a disease or
injury caused by their workplaces. In Ontario alone, the Workplace Safety and
Insurance Board (WSIB) reports that 377 workers died either as a result of a
traumatic injury or an occupational illness. And although the annual number of
traumatic fatalities in the province is slowly dropping, the number of
occupational illness fatalities keeps rising. More than three times as many
Ontario workers died in 2010 from occupational illnesses than from workplace
As OPSEU remembers and reflects on the tragic toll on workers, their families,
friends and colleagues, we re-dedicate our efforts to achieve healthier and
safer workplaces not only for our members but for all workers in the province.
We were outraged by the announcement this January that a single supervisor was
fined a paltry $22,500 for the confined space deaths in 2010 of two Jamaican
migrant workers at an organic farm just outside of Toronto. Although four
individuals initially faced multiple charges under the Occupational Health and
Safety Act for the fatalities of Ralston White and Paul Roach, the Ministry of
Labour and legal counsel for the accused struck a deal which resulted in
dropping all the charges but one. The owners of the company were not found
responsible or penalized in any way. This case and the circumstances which led
to the workers’ deaths, highlights the vulnerability of non-unionized workers,
particularly those who come to Canada as migrant workers.
This year, we are looking ahead with guarded optimism at government actions to
implement the recommendations from the 2010 report of the Expert Advisory Panel
on Occupational Health and Safety. A new position of Chief Prevention Officer (CPO)
has been created and filled, and a Prevention Council to advise the CPO is being
established. The Ministry of Labour is now responsible for prevention of
workplace injury and illness, not only for enforcement of health and safety
One of the key areas addressed by the Expert Advisory Panel was better
protection for vulnerable workers, such as migrant workers, new Canadians,
undocumented workers and farm workers. It is our hope that efforts to implement
the Panel’s recommendations in this area may lead to positive changes to prevent
future tragedies like the deaths of Ralston White and Paul Roach.
OPSEU is committed to the fight for safe and healthy workplaces for all. We
continue to fight to secure hard-won rights and repeat our call for tougher
enforcement of health and safety laws. We demand that the government create a
province-wide strategy to address the epidemic of occupational disease. We
continue to call for the creation of an effective ergonomic regulation and the
implementation of all of the Expert Advisory Panel recommendations.
OPSEU urges all locals to mark April 28 as the National Day of Mourning, to
remember workers who have died, and to renew the fight for the living. Visit
the Workers Health and Safety Centre (WHSC) website below to view Day of
Mourning events across Ontario.
Day of Mourning events across Ontario: