More than 100 Islanders gather for provincial day of mourning in Charlottetown
© Guardian photo by Mitch MacDonald
Dorothy Comeau, of Yarmouth, N.S., lays a rose in memory of her late husband Ernest at the provincial day of mourning in Charlottetown Sunday.
More than a couple of tears were shed when Islanders gathered at Province House Sunday to pay their respects to workers who were killed or severely injured on the job.
The 12th annual provincial day of mourning saw more than a hundred individuals lay wreaths, roses, or simply pause for a moment of silence.
P.E.I. Federation of Labour vice president Craig Walsh, who was standing in for president Carl Pursey, said each year about a thousand Canadians are either killed on the job or die of work-related incidents.
"Many more suffered from debilitating injuries.... simply because of the lack of enforcement of health and safety laws and criminal code," Walsh said, adding that the federation recently formed a health and safety committee to look into health guideline enforcement.
He also called on government to take a more active role in cracking down on companies which neglect health and safety laws.
"While police investigate and lay charges in the majority of homicides, the same cannot be said for workplace fatalities," he said. "When an organization, company or person willfully neglects health and safety, knowing that someone could be injured or killed, they should be held criminally responsible."
The Government of Canada proclaimed the Workers Mourning Day Act in 1991, marking April 28 as the National Day of Mourning.
With Canada being the first country to do so, the day is now observed in about 80 countries around the world.
Dorothy Comeau was one of many who laid a rose at a memorial in front of the George Coles building Sunday.
The rose was in memory of Comeau's husband Ernest, who was the first worker who died while building the Confederation Bridge.
"It was 19 years ago," said Comeau, a Nova Scotia resident who makes the trip to Charlottetown on April 28 every year. "It's well worth the drive."
Janice Sherry, provincial minister of labour, said there is one to two workplace injuries every year on P.E.I. for every hundred full-time jobs.
Last year four Islanders died as a result of injuries or illnesses contracted in working conditions, said Sherry.
She pledged that workplace incidents are "not acceptable in this province."
"I know I, or any of us, can not fulfill the wish which would be to have your family member back," she said speaking to the crowd. "But I do hope that through raising awareness of workplace safety, working towards perfection and laying the wreaths out in memory of your loved ones, it may not bring them back but I hope you do find comfort in us all being here together."