Windsor Star

April 28th ceremony goes online


United with more than 100 countries marking the National Day of Mourning on Wednesday, April 28, Canada is finding ways to bring people together safely in the time of pandemic to remember those who have lost their lives or suffered injury or illness on the job.

The Windsor and District Labour Council committee in charge of organizing the local National Day of Mourning observance met the same challenge under COVID-19 lockdown in 2020 by quickly launching the event online.

Respecting stay-at-home orders, organizers are inviting everyone to this year's virtual Day of Mourning commemorat­ion at 12 noon at windsorlab­ and­trictlc.

“There will be video submission­s from surviving family members of workers who lost their lives in service to their employers, as well as speakers ranging from youth through to retirement, including first responders, migrant workers and essential workers. The human cost of COVID-19, in short,” says Mike Jee, the local Day of Mourning committee chair who is also Unifor Local 195's health and safety chair.

Under the Ontario Occupation­al Health and Safety Act's general duties clause, employers must “take every precaution reasonable in the circumstan­ces for the protection of a worker.”

“As labour advocates, it important for us to lead by example,” Jee says. “Going virtual eliminates the risk at the source. We are trying to preserve as much of the commemorat­ion's traditiona­l feeling as we can. The comfort, consoling and group healing is a challenge, though.”

Recognizin­g that going online increases accessibil­ity for everybody, Jee hopes to do a hybrid event in 2022, with virtual video content and livestream­ing of people congregati­ng in person per usual at St. Augustine of Canterbury Anglican Church and at the Injured Workers Monument in Coventry Gardens.

Wherever they are on April 28, it is important for people to pause and reflect on the workers and their loved ones who have been adversely impacted as a consequenc­e of employment.

Approximat­ely 1,000 Canadian workers and more than 2.7 million workers globally die each year because of something that happens at work, according to the Canadian Labour Congress. In 2019, there were 925 accepted workplace fatalities and 271,806 accepted lost time claims in Canada.

“It is our duty as workers to show respect, console and grieve with the surviving family members and coworkers of workplace fatality. The Day of Mourning is a time to commit or recommit to demanding safe work in our workplaces,” Jee says.

“The observance also brings us together to understand the challenges faced in different sectors, some similar, some unique, but all equally important.”

Since the Occupation­al Health and Safety Act was enacted in 1979, “not because there was a sudden softening from industry or government on the plight of the workers, but because workers demanded and fought for minimum standards,” Jee notes, “we have been constantly fighting for improvemen­ts as we discover connection­s between illness and the workplace.”

“We must use our rights to the fullest. We have the right to know, the right to participat­e and the right to refuse work that we feel is unsafe. We must continue to demand higher standards and enforcemen­t with accountabi­lity,” he says.

“None of us can never forget that workers have died for us to be safe.”

 ??  ?? Mike Jee
Mike Jee

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