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Workers honoured, remembered during Day of Mourning

April 28 is recognized as the Day of Mourning. A small ceremony was held virtually to honour workers who were injured, became ill, or have died while on the job.
April 28 is the Day of Mourning in the Yukon and globally. The event was held virtually this year because of the pandemic but the Yukon Worker’s Memorial in Shipyards Park serves as a reminder for those who have been injured or died while on the job. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)

A virtual ceremony was held April 28, the Day of Mourning, to remember workers who have gotten injured, sick, or have died while on the job.

During 2020 in the Yukon, 1,400 workers were injured. Two died.

The ceremony remembered all workers who have died, were injured, or became ill on the job. It honoured the workers who put their health and safety at risk to serve others – especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. As well, commitments to protect workers and prevent further workplace tragedies were made.

There were five candles lit during the ceremony – three white and two black. Commissioner Angelique Bernard; Jeanie McLean on behalf of the government; Tammy Beatty, Yukon Chamber of Commerce; Raven Morningstar, Save On Foods; and Yukon Federation of Labour President Ron Rousseau lit the candles as a pledge to commit to safe workplaces.

“I’d like to thank all the speakers for their pledges to keep the workplace safe,” said Rousseau.

Rousseau said in his speech that the pandemic has “shone a light on gaps in the workplace”.

“The global COVID-19 pandemic has been over a year now,” he said. “The virus and its variants have brought havoc on our society and made a troubling lack of protection for workers.

“Today, we mourn the dead and recommit to fighting for the living. Over the past year, we witnessed how vulnerable we are. Protections expose employers who choose to put profits over people.”

It isn’t just health care settings, added Rousseau, who have been hard hit by the pandemic.

“Workers have had to fight for access to appropriate, effective protective equipment, COVID-19 safe practices at work, paid sick leave, and respect to health and safety and safety rights.”

Steve Geick, president of the Yukon Employees’ Union said the Day of Mourning is an important day for the territory.

“We need to respect those that were injured and killed,” said Geick. “In my perspective, we need to take a harder stance with employers.

“There is no consistency and things need to be enforced. Everyone needs to be following the regulations, unionized or not. We need to hold everyone accountable because in the Yukon, there isn’t that six degrees of separation. It is your family member, friend, or neighbour.”

On April 23, Richard Matthew “Red” Cull, 41, died in a bulldozer accident near Black Creek Hill – 73 kilometres from Dawson City at Stuart Placer Ltd.

“This tragic event serves as a stark reminder to all employers and all workers that it’s not enough to remember, honour and pledge to protect,” read a release. “We must follow through; we have to double down on our commitment to safe workplaces and occupational health and safety stewardship.”

“It affects everyone and we need to be vigilant,” said Geick on the passing of Cull. “In a small community, it is even more tragic – if that is even possible.”

The Day of Mourning is observed in more than 100 countries, is recognized as Workers’ Memorial Day by the International Labour Organization (ILO), and as International Workers’ Memorial Day and the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC).

Contact John Tonin at