Day of Mourning – April 28

April 28, 2019

Day of Mourning – April 28

Image courtesy of CCOHS

Every year on April 28, Canadian flags are lowered half-mast to observe the National Day of Mourning. This day commemorates injured and lost lives from occupational exposures and raises awareness on safety, because everyone has the right to feel secure and go home safe and sound after work.

The National Day of Mourning hits close to home – it started in 1983, when labour activists Colin Lambert and Dr. Ray Sentes were stopped one April morning for a funeral procession honouring a firefighter. They were headed to a union meeting, and after seeing the procession their minds naturally questioned if workers from other industries were given similar honours. United Steelworkers in Elliot Lake set an example, where a Remembrance Day was held for workers that were injured or killed in uranium mining.

Combining their efforts, Lambert and Sentes pushed for a national day of mourning, which lead to the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) passing a resolution at its annual convention in 1983. A year later, the Canadian Labour Congress did the same – and eight years after the day of remembrance was launched, the Parliament of Canada passed the Workers Mourning Day Act, officiating April 28 for this purpose. A ‘workers’ memorial day’ is observed in over 100 countries, also recognized as International Workers Memorial Day by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC)

Labour organizations such as ETT/ETFO, OSSTF, CUPE, and other labour affiliates and communities continue their commitment to working together in preventing future loss of life, injury and improving workplace strategies.

Did you know? Workplace hazards disproportionately affect some over others – a young person has a higher chance of injury or death.

  • Young workers ages 15-24 are most likely to get injured
  • In 2017, 951 workplace fatalities were recorded in Canada, an increase of 46 from the previous year
    • Among these, 23 were young people in that age group
Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety – Memo
BC Labour Heritage Centre – Day of Mourning: The Untold Story