Workers’ Day of Mourning should not exist, says union president

There shouldn’t be a day reserved to mourn workers who’ve been injured or died on the job, says the Yukon Federation of Labour.

There shouldn’t be a day reserved to mourn workers who’ve been injured or died on the job, says the Yukon Federation of Labour.

“The Day of Mourning is an event that shouldn’t exist,” said the federation’s president, Alex Furlong at a ceremony on Monday.

About 125 people attended the event to remember the 1,960 Yukoners injured on the job in 2007.

So far, 522 Yukoners have been injured on the job this year.

“(This) day should not exist because if workplace safety were truly a top priority in our society, there would be no injuries or deaths,” said Furlong.

“But it must exist because we’re reluctant to learn from the past.”

Two thousand injuries and one death in a territory of 15,000 workers is unacceptable, he added.

The Canadian Labour Congress marked the first Day of Mourning in 1984.

Since then, there have been 18,000,000 injuries reported in Canada and 19,805 workplace-related deaths, said Furlong.

Parliament passed the Day of Mourning Act in 1991 and April 28 was selected as the official day, marking when Ontario passed the first Canadian Workers’ Compensation Act in 1914.

The territory commemorated the day for the first time in 2006, noting 42 Yukon workers had died on the job or died of occupational illness in the previous 15 years.

On Monday, RCMP officers assisted members of the public in lighting candles of remembrance and placing them at the base of the temporary Yukon Workers’ Memorial.

The memorial, created by Dan Lebrun and Bela Simo, features five intertwined pillars that represented five segments of employment: women, men, youth, aging workers and all workers.

Forty seven candles were lit this year.

“Tragically, one more is added this year,” said Furlong.

Richard Roger, a Mayo resident, died in a plane crash last year.

In an obituary-style speech, Furlong told the crowd Rogers was a gifted athlete and outdoor guide.

“He truly loved life and the people around him,” said Furlong.

A minute of silence was held to remember him and other Canadian workers.

In his remarks, Furlong paid special attention to young workers.

They’re six times more likely to be hurt or killed than their older counterparts.

In 2004, 130 young workers in Canada died on the job or because of work related illness, said Furlong.

“The choices they make in the workplace affect not just them but their friends, family and coworkers,” he said.

A two-day workplace safety workshop was held in conjunction with the Day of Mourning.

Students from Grades 8 to 12 took in the workshop that taught them about their rights and responsibilities as employees.

Tyler Wynnk, representing young workers, lit a candle along with dignitaries.

He works a private landscaping company and took in the young workers’ conference with some friends.

Wynnk has friends who injured their fingers and backs while working.

Most young people are unaware of their rights, he said.

“There are more people who don’t know their rights and responsibilities than people who do,” he said.

The Yukon is one of the few jurisdictions without a permanent workers’ memorial.

It was dismantled after the ceremony and taken from the building’s main floor.

The sculpture was reassembled in the building’s basement.