National Day of Mourning - Remembering lives lost or injured in the workplace

April 27, 2013 | Ashley

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National day of mourning

In 1991, the federal government officially started recognizing April 28 as the National Day of Mourning after passing a Mourning Day Act  on February 1, 1991. This important day commemorates workers who have been killed or injured in the workplace as well as reminding us all to be committed to preventing further deaths and injuries by improving health and safety in the workplace. 

According to the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) In 2011, 919 workplace deaths were recorded in Canada and between 1993 to  2011 17, 061 people lost their lives due to work-related causes. According to the International Labour Organization (ILO) 2.02 million people die each year world wide from work related diseases 321,000 from workplace accidents, which means that:

  • Every 15 seconds someone dies from a work related accident or disease

The National day of Mourning also known as Workers' Memorial Day is now recognized by approximately 80 countries around the world including: Argentina, Belgium, Bermuda, Dominican Republic, Gibralter Panama, Peru, United States and many other countries. Workers' Memorial day was actually created by Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) in 1984. The CUPE website has honoured a few of the CUPE workers who have lost their lives since the last National Day of Mourning in 2012:

  • Sylvain Ferland, 49, was killed in an accident while driving a bus in Montreal, Quebec.
  • Normand Gauthier, 53, a longshoreman was killed during loading operations on a Europe bound ship in Port of Matane, Quebec. He leaves behind a wife and 3 children .
  • Claude Picard, 48, a linesman who worked for Hydro Quebecwas killed after falling 13 meters while working on a hydro pole Saint-Félix-de-Valois, Quebec. He leaves behind a wife and a daughter.
  • Hubert Fortin, 67, was killed when he was struck by a roller coaster at La Ronde, a Montreal amusement park where he was working. 
  • Tara Lynn Veri, was killed when her car was hit by a cement truck. She was from Simcoe, Ontario. 

In international news, there are far more fatalities, our standards and regulations for health and safety are quite high in North America.  Just this past week there was a factory that collapsed killing over 200 people, I was watching CBC news yesterday and they said they are still pulling out bodies from the rubble, for more information you can read this article. Below is a video from CBC about improving unsafe work conditions overseas.  



Tomorrow, April 28 businesses are being encouraged to recognize this day and to remember to make worker health and safety a priority. There will be special ceremonies all over the country and in Parliament Hill the Canadian flag will be held at half mast. At the Toronto Public Library 2 minutes of silence will be observed to remember worker's lives which have been lost. In the business department on the 4th floor at North York Central Library, one of the librarians has made a beautiful display to honor the National day of Mourning. You should go up and take a look - here's a sneak peek:

Day of Mourning
National Day of Mourning Display - Business Department

At North York Central Library the Law books are held in the Business Department, we also have a lot of legal directories and leaflets. If you are looking for books on occupational health and safety, worker rights, joint health and safety committees etc. you can find them up on the fourth floor.