Tearful speeches, a moment of silence and flowers laid at the base of a monument marked the Day of Mourning in Gibsons on April 28.
The annual ceremony at Dougall Park drew dozens of guests who wanted to recognize the 128 people who died on the job this year in B.C. — and remember loved ones they’d lost in years past.
Sechelt Coun. Alice Lutes recalled the story of her brother’s death on the job almost 40 years ago and how it has impacted the entire family to this day.
“I think we need to remember that it has a devastating effect on everyone involved,” she said. “So I thank you for being here and I thank you for helping me to remember. By talking a little bit about the pain it makes it easier to remember the good memories.”
Event organizer Ron Norgaard, member of the Sunshine Coast Labour Council, said he also lost a friend in the workplace accident that took Lutes’ brother.
“It’s not something that you let go. It’s not something you forget, and it resonates through the whole family and it affects everybody,” Norgaard said.
Last year in B.C., hundreds of families were affected when 128 workers died on the job.
Of those work-related deaths, 39 were from traumatic injury, 22 were from motor vehicle incidents, and 67 were from occupational disease, mainly due to asbestos exposure.
Many of the deaths could have been prevented with proper safety protocols, which is what WorkSafe BC safety officer Mark Benoit pushed for during his speech.
“My focus is on supporting safety and healthy workplaces so tragedies don’t happen,” Benoit said, noting employees “have the right and the responsibility to refuse any unsafe work.”
Speaker Donna Thomas, a retired member of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, said the onus shouldn’t be shifted to the worker.
“What we need is the government to do right. If we’re going to do anything to change it we need to ask our governments to make stronger and better rules, to hire more people, to give a wider mandate to their people and to help make safety and respect of the worker more clear,” Thomas said.
“We say we’re here to mourn for the dead. We also say we’re here to fight for the living. And some of that fight, whether it’s popular or not, may have to end up being political.”
Following the speeches, everyone gathered for a moment of silence to remember the fallen workers. Then piper Craig Buchanan played Amazing Grace while Sunshine Coast RCMP Const. David Yuan laid a wreath at the memorial. Those who wished also laid flowers at the base of the memorial in remembrance.
© Coast Reporter