April 28 was first recognized as the National Day of Mourning by the Canadian Labour Congress in 1984 to raise public awareness of worker injury, illness and death.
“No longer will publicly funded institutions be allowed to ignore the significance of the Day of Mourning,” explained Ontario NDP MPP, Percy Hatfield the author of Bill 180, officially entitled Workers Day of Mourning Act, 2016. “Flags will be lowered at our schools, hospitals, municipal buildings, libraries, fire halls, museums, arenas and police stations.”
Hatfield, MPP for Windsor-Tecumseh, explained how the lowered flag is a powerful symbol of respect.
“It brings attention to our shared loss. Families who have suffered a loss see a lowered flag and know they are not alone.”
Equally important, he pointed out, “The day and the lowered flag also serves to remind us all we must do more to show workers who suffer with injuries and work-related disease they are respected and to support efforts to ensure they get the compensation and justice they deserve.”
Prosecution and prevention were also prominent themes during final debate for Bill 180. Employers and supervisors have the most significant and extensive legal obligations to protect workers, including training. Still, there can be very little debate that more can be done to ensure Ontario workplaces are safe and healthy for workers.
For Ontario employers caught violating their legal obligations, millions of dollars in fines are paid annually. And in the past year, a few supervisors have even been sentenced to jail time.
Many believe there needs to be stiffer financial penalties for employers and more charges under the 2004 Bill C-45 amendments to the Criminal Code. This Bill, also known as the Westray Bill, was named for the 1992 Nova Scotia coal mine disaster that killed 26 miners. A public inquiry into this preventable tragedy led to many recommendations including the need to amend Canada’s Criminal Code to ensure companies as well as corporate executives, directors and those who direct the work of others are held properly accountable for workplace safety
“We realize no financial penalty, no time behind prison bars can bring back a worker who was killed on the job,” explained Hatfield. “But it certainly sends a message to other employers—do more training, and make the health and safety of your workers a priority or face jail time.”
For our part the Workers Health & Safety Centre continues to promote Day of Mourning (DOM) events every year in communities across Ontario. Our most recent campaign, entitled “One death is too many. One day is not enough,” spoke of our ongoing commitment to providing the training and resources essential to supporting workplace prevention efforts.
The passing of Bill 180 gives formal proclamation to each April 28 as Ontario’s official Workers Day of Mourning.
Learn more about Bill 180—Workers Day of Mourning Act
Learn more about the National Day of Mourning
Want to learn how WHSC’s information and training resources can support your workplace prevention efforts? Contact WHSC and ask to speak with a training services representative.
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