How many of you knew that yesterday was the National Day of Mourning here in Canada and Workers' Memorial Day in the United States and much of the rest of the world?
Having a day to remember and honour those who have died while at work was an idea first suggested at the Canadian Labour Congress in 1984. By 1989 the AFL-CLC had adopted the idea in the U.S. and in 1991 the Canadian government passed legislation approving April 28th as the National Day of Mourning. Of course this year's ceremonies took place virtually.
Why April 28th? Because on that date in 1914 the pioneering legislation, the first Workers Compensation Act was passed here in Ontario. Today working for greater on-the-job safety is as important as remembering the dead. On-the-job injuries vastly exceed fatalities, and leave behind workers who may be impacted for life.
We feel a personal connection of course as our son William was killed while at work as a water bomber pilot. However, I have the impression the the day of mourning is recognized and remembered mainly by those involved in the labour movement. I was aware of it, but just in passing, 'out of the corner if my eye' so to speak. We think more immediately of the Canadian Fallen Firefighters Foundation and the Canadian Firefighters Memorial in Ottawa.
The statistics are frightening. In Ontario there were 81 fatalities in 2018, and 56,000 injuries. There were considerably more deaths from occupationally related diseases. To cite just one statistic, another 12-15 workers will die in the U.S. today, and every day. Thankfully these deaths and injury rates have improved significantly over the past 50 years.
We can add a tragic footnote to this during the current pandemic as health care workers who die or fall ill will be among these numbers.
So think of those health care workers who are literally risking illness or death every time they go to work and don't complain about being asked to simply stay home!