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Greater Victorians gather for Day of Mourning, call for safer workplaces

175 British Columbians lost their lives in the workplace in 2023
Warren Wulff, a representative of Public Service Alliance of Canada, was one of multiple union representatives who recognized the National Day of Mourning at Camosun College on Sunday, April 28. (Bailey Seymour/The News)

Greater Victoria residents and union representatives gathered at Camosun College to remember those who have been injured or who have lost their lives in the workplace.

On Sunday, April 28, the Canadian flag flew at half-mast on federal government buildings across the country to observe the National Day of Mourning.

“Behind every statistic lies a human story, a life lost, a family shattered and a community devastated,” said Corey McGregor, a representative for the Victoria Labour Council, speaking at Camosun College. “In the pursuit of profit, we have witnessed a staggering number of worker injuries and casualties.”

According to the province, last year 175 people died in work-related deaths in B.C., which McGregor said was the “tip of the iceberg” as they are only what has been accepted through the workers compensation system.

“It is a sobering truth that despite advances in technology and awareness, our workplaces remain perilous for far too many. Behind every workplace accident or occupational illness lies a systemic failure,” he said.

Charlotte Millington, second vice president of the Hospital Employees Union, added that no one should go to work not knowing if they’ll get to return.

“No one should come home and find an empty dining room table chair that will never be filled again.”

According to the association of Workers’ Compensation Boards of Canada, there were 993 workplace fatalities recorded across the country in 2022. Among those who died, 33 were workers aged 15 to 24.

“I think of the brave firefighters who lost their lives during last year’s record-breaking wildfire season. I think of the mother of two who died in a crane accident in Vancouver. And I think of all the people whose lives have been forever changed by a workplace injury or the loss of a loved one on the job,” Premier David Eby said in a statement, marking the day.

The province says there have been changes to the Workers Compensation Act to give people injured at work better supports, and make it easier for workers to organize at work and have more say in workplace safety. In the last year, B.C. increased the minimum age for logging, oil drilling and smelting jobs to 18, and brought in stricter rules around asbestos removals, transportation and disposal.

In 1991, eight years after a 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, which is now recognized in over 100 countries.

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Bailey Seymour

About the Author: Bailey Seymour

After graduating from SAIT and stint with the Calgary Herald, I ended up at the Nanaimo News Bulletin/Ladysmith Chronicle in March 2023
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