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Marked annually in Canada on April 28, the National Day of Mourning is a day to remember and honour those lives lost or injured due to a workplace tragedy. It’s also a day to collectively renew our commitment to improving health and safety in the workplace and to preventing further injuries, illnesses and deaths. Traditionally on April 28, the Canadian flag flies at half-mast on Parliament Hill and on all federal government buildings. Employers and workers observe Day of Mourning in a variety of ways. Some light candles, lay wreaths, wear commemorative pins, ribbons or black armbands, and pause for a moment of silence.

According to the Association of Workers’ Compensation Boards of Canada (AWCBC), in 2022, there were 993 workplace fatalities recorded in Canada. Among these deaths were 33 young workers aged 15-24. Add to these fatalities the 348,747 accepted claims (an increase of 71,530 from the previous year) for lost time due to a work-related injury or disease, including 40,203 from workers aged 15-24, and the fact these statistics only include what is reported and accepted by the compensation boards, there is no doubt the total number of workers impacted is even greater.

And it’s not just these numbers on which we need to reflect. With each worker tragedy there are loved ones, family members, friends and co-workers who are directly affected, left behind, and deeply impacted – their lives also forever changed.

In 1991, eight years after the day of remembrance was launched by the Canadian Labour Congress, the Parliament of Canada passed the Workers Mourning Day Act making April 28 an official Day of Mourning. Today the Day of Mourning has since spread to more than 100 countries around the world and is recognized as Workers’ Memorial Day, and as International Workers’ Memorial Day by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC).

It is the hope of CCOHS that the annual observance of this day will help strengthen the resolve to establish safe and healthy conditions in the workplace, and prevent further injuries, illnesses, and deaths. As much as this is a day to remember those who have lost their lives, it is also a call to protect the living and make work a place where people are safe and can thrive.

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