Miss­ing Worker Memo­rial re­turn­ing

Day of Mourn­ing cer­e­mony set for April 28

The Observer (Sarnia) - - NEWS - PAUL MOR­DEN pmor­den@post­media.com

The Miss­ing Worker Memo­rial, the tra­di­tional set­ting for Sar­nia’s an­nual Day of Mourn­ing cer­e­mony, is set to re­turn to Cen­ten­nial Park in the com­ing weeks.

Cre­ated ap­prox­i­mately 16 years ago by Sar­nia artist Shawn McKnight for the group Vic­tims of Chem­i­cal Val­ley, the sculp­ture was re­moved from the city park dur­ing the $11-mil­lion re­me­di­a­tion project that be­gan after as­bestos, lead and other con­tam­i­nants were found in the soil in 2013.

The memo­rial in­cludes metal fig­ures set in con­crete which, when viewed from a par­tic­u­lar spot, de­picted a fam­ily and a miss­ing worker set against the back­drop of petro­chem­i­cal plants on the St. Clair River.

For many years, the memo­rial was the set­ting for Sar­nia’s an­nual Day of Mourn­ing cer­e­mony to re­mem­ber work­ers hurt or killed on the job, but the event moved to the Fire­fighter Memo­rial Gar­den next to the Clif­ford Hansen Fire Sta­tion on East Street while work was be­ing car­ried out at the park.

This year’s Day of Mourn­ing cer­e­mony is sched­uled for April 28, 6 p.m., at the fire sta­tion but or­ga­niz­ers say plans are to re­turn to the Miss­ing Worker Memo­rial in future years.

“I’m sure we’ll be back to the park as soon as the mon­u­ment is all put back to­gether,” said John Mill­hol­land, a mem­ber of the Sar­nia and District Labour Coun­cil and chair­per­son of the com­mit­tee that or­ga­nizes the city’s Day of Mourn­ing.

“The fire­fight­ers have al­ways been very sup­port­ive of us and they’ve got a nice memo­rial gar­den there, so it has worked out very well.”

April 28 was es­tab­lished as a Na­tional Day of Mourn­ing by the Cana­dian Labour Congress in 1984, and en­shrined in na­tional leg­is­la­tion by Par­lia­ment in 1991.

“We’ve got to re­mem­ber that peo­ple died go­ing to work, and we have to fight to make sure these things stop,” Mill­hol­land said.

This year’s cer­e­mony will rec­og­nize the 25th an­niver­sary of the Westray coal mine ex­plo­sion that killed 26 Nova Sco­tia min­ers, lead­ing to leg­is­la­tion hold­ing man­agers and di­rec­tors of cor­po­ra­tions ac­count­able for fail­ures to pro­tect the lives of work­ers.

Along with the labour coun­cil, the Sar­nia Day of Mourn­ing is sup­ported by the Work­ers Health and Safety Cen­tre, Oc­cu­pa­tional Health Clin­ics for On­tario Work­ers and the Vic­tims of Chem­i­cal Val­ley.

“There’s no doubt about it, this com­mu­nity are lead­ers in safety,” Mill­hol­land said.

“If some­thing goes wrong in an in­dus­try like the petro­chem­i­cal in­dus­try it can re­ally go wrong so you have to re­ally cross the t’s and dot the i’s.”

At this year’s cer­e­mony, Sar­ni­aLambton MPP Bob Bai­ley is ex­pected to speak about his bill to ban use of as­bestos in On­tario, and San­dra Ki­nart will speak on be­half of the Vic­tims of Chem­i­cal Val­ley.

“So many peo­ple in this com­mu­nity have lost im­por­tant peo­ple in their life, and this gives them a place to come and ac­knowl­edge that,” Ki­nart said.

Dancers from Aamji­w­naang First Na­tion are also sched­uled to take part, and wreaths and carnations will be laid at the memo­rial by those at­tend­ing the cer­e­mony.

“We’ve come a long way,” Mill­hol­land said about the event.

“I can re­mem­ber in the early 1990s do­ing this at city hall with 12 peo­ple, and now we haven’t had one in years with less than a cou­ple of hun­dred peo­ple.”

Bryan Prouse, op­er­a­tion ser­vices man­ager with the city, said the con­trac­tor has said the Miss­ing Worker Memo­rial sculp­ture is ex­pected to be in­stalled back in the park soon.

“We’ve been ad­vised it’s all ready to go and should be done by the end of the month,” he said.

The sec­tion of the park closed for the re­me­di­a­tion work is sched­uled to re­open in early June.

“There’s a lot of work to be done yet, but they’re gung-ho and ready to go,” Prouse said.

McKnight said he met last week with city of­fi­cials who said the sculp­ture will be re­turned to its orig­i­nal place in the park.

“It was a site-spe­cific sculp­ture, so that’s im­por­tant,” he said.

“It worked out great, they were re­ally good about it.”

The sculp­ture was placed to of­fer a view that in­cludes the nat­u­ral ele­ments of Sar­nia Bay, a play­ground, down­town and “the Chem­i­cal Val­ley in the back­ground was the most im­por­tant part,” McKnight said.

“That’s what the piece was all about, our daily lives and the places that we work, and then the sculp­ture tells the rest of the story with the miss­ing worker.”

Vic­tims of Chem­i­cal Val­ley is made up of wi­d­ows and rel­a­tives of work­ers who died from work­place disease, and mem­bers of the group are ex­cited the sculp­ture is re­turn­ing to its place in the park, Ki­nart said.

But, she added mem­bers of the group are still un­happy with the city’s de­ci­sion to keep and cap con­tam­i­nated soil in the park, in­stead of re­mov­ing it.

As­bestos, one of the con­tam­i­nants found in the park soil, has been a sig­nif­i­cant con­trib­u­tor to work­place disease in Sar­ni­aLambton.

“They feel it’s a slap in the face to them, be­cause it’s right next to the mon­u­ment,” Ki­nart said.

Stor­ing the con­tam­i­nated soil in a berm in the park, be­neath a cap that in­cludes a half me­tre of top­soil and a geo-tex­tile bar­rier, avoided the multi-mil­lion-dol­lar cost of dis­pos­ing of it off-site, ac­cord­ing to the city.


Carol McLaugh­lin, left, and Ch­eryl Or­range are shown in this file photo stand­ing next to the Miss­ing Worker Memo­rial in Cen­ten­nial Park. The memo­rial is ex­pected to re­turn to the park in the com­ing weeks. It was re­moved as part of work that fol­lowed the dis­cov­ery of con­tam­i­nated soil in the park on Sar­nia Bay.


In this file photo, carnations are placed on a stone at the Miss­ing Worker Memo­rial in Sar­nia's Cen­ten­nial Park dur­ing a Day of Mourn­ing cer­e­mony. This year's cer­e­mony is set for April 28, 6 p.m., at the Fire­fighter Memo­rial Gar­den next to the Clif­ford Hansen Fire Sta­tion on East Street.

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