Dozens of Yukoners gathered at Shipyards Park on the National Day of Mourning to pay tribute to workers who have died or suffered illness or injury on the job or experienced a work-related tragedy.
Pledges for workplace safety were made, candles were lit and flowers were placed around the Yukon Workers’ Memorial to honour those workers on April 28.
Yukon Federation of Labour president Teresa Acheson told the crowd the day offers an opportunity to renew commitments to workplace safety and consider how everyone can contribute to safety at work so that everyone gets home safe.
“As we reflect on the tragic events that have taken place over the years, we are reminded that we must always be vigilant in our efforts to improve workplace safety. It’s a responsibility that we all share and one that we must take seriously,” Acheson said.
“We acknowledge the impacts that these workplace tragedies have on families and communities and we extend our deepest sympathies and support to families and loved ones of workers who have experienced loss and that ripple effect to other impacted workers and their communities.”
A black candle represented the fallen workers such as the worker who died on the job last year in the Yukon.
A representative from the Yukon Workers’ Safety and Compensation Board identified the work-related incident to the News.
Shortly before 9 a.m. on Aug. 18, 2022, RCMP responded to a single-vehicle crash on the Alaska Highway, according to a press release. In the release, police learned a semi-truck had been travelling northbound when it left the road and caught fire in a ditch. The driver, a 39-year-old man from Alberta, was pronounced dead at the scene. The passenger, a 59-year-old man from Alberta, suffered undisclosed injuries.
In the Yukon Legislative Assembly on April 27, Richard Mostyn, the minister responsible for Yukon Workers’ Compensation Health and Safety Board, said one worker died on the job, 780 workers were injured at work and 447 workers were “so seriously injured” that they lost time from work in 2022.
Mostyn told his colleagues the goal must be zero injuries.
“Because if zero is not your goal, that’s the trade-off — sacrificing someone,” he said.
“Be vigilant. Be present. Wear the gear. Identify the hazards. Look out for your co-workers. Look out for yourself. Come home to your loved ones, safe and sound.”
At the ceremony the following day, Mostyn pledged safety for governance, Whitehorse Mayor Laura Cabott pledged safety for community, Yukon Chamber of Commerce chair Kyla Barker pledged safety for employers, Local Y010 president Lisa Keenan pledged safety for workers and Whitehorse Fire Fighters Association IAFF Local 2217 secretary Jorgen Ponsioen pledged safety for first responders. They each lit a white candle.
Ponsioen spoke about the dangers firefighters face while carrying out their duties.
“Firefighters risk their lives to protect the public and property, often putting themselves in harm’s way to ensure the safety of others,” he said.
“Unfortunately, this comes at a price and firefighters are also susceptible to occupational cancers and illnesses directly related to firefighting. We have some of our own members that have fought and lost battles with cancers, as well as others currently engaged in ongoing conflict with other job-related health struggles that they are losing.”
Yukon MP Brendan Hanley lit the black candle in a tribute to fallen workers.
“When you bring a large and diverse group of people together, we don’t always agree on everything,” Acheson said.
“But today, we all agree that every worker should come home safe.”
Contact Dana Hatherly at firstname.lastname@example.org