The risks faced by workers on a daily basis were the focus of Day of Mourning events in Campbell River and across the province on Sunday.
It’s crucial for people to recognize that workers are injured and killed on the job, said Andrew Brown, business representative for the Campbell River-based local of the Construction Maintenance and Allied Workers (CMAW) union.
“We have to remember those people and fight for their rights,” Brown said.
Of the 131 work-related death claims accepted by WorkSafeBC in 2018, two of them were in our geographic area.
They included a Campbell River millwright who was exposed to asbestos, and a tree faller in the Lochborough Inlet who lost balance and fell. Details about those deaths are subject to privacy restrictions, a WorkSafeBC spokesperson said.
B.C.-wide, 66 fatalities resulted from occupational disease and 65 involved traumatic injury, including 24 cases involving motor-vehicle incidents. The industry that saw the greatest number of deaths was general construction, with 30 fatalities.
On Sunday, members of CMAW’s Local 2020, which represents construction workers on Vancouver Island and the Sunshine Coast, observed a moment of silence at a general meeting that took place in Parksville.
In Campbell River, about 50 people gathered at Frank James Park for an annual ceremony marking the Day of Mourning.
“It’s a meaningful event to a lot of members of the community,” said Dave Lovely, safety advisor for the City of Campbell River.
The park’s namesake, Frank James, was a city employee killed in a 1989 workplace incident – he was hit by a car – and a plaque located there pays tribute to workers killed on the job or who died from workplace diseases, Lovely said.
Among those at the ceremony were members of the International Association of Firefighters, the union representing firefighters, along with Campbell River Fire Chief Thomas Doherty. An orange ribbon symbol adorned a city fire engine to mark the Day of Mourning. Campbell River firefighter Richard McFarlane died of leukemia in 2014 following exposure to carcinogens.
— Thomas Doherty (@CRFireC2) April 28, 2019
The ceremony was also attended by representatives from unions including the United Steelworkers, the Canadian Union of Public Employees and the B.C. Government and Service Employees’ Union, Lovely said, adding that Brian Shaw played bagpipes at the event.
Others in attendance included New Democrat MP Rachel Blaney, who noted that flags were flying at half-mast in Ottawa and Campbell River. Blaney said that in Woss – where three workers were killed and two others injured in a 2017 train derailment – a permanent gazebo was being installed in tribute of those killed or injured in the forestry industry.
The memorial also pays homage to people who have organized and advocated for safer workplace conditions, Blaney said.
“Safety standards, working conditions, weekends, holidays, parental leave, health insurance, pensions – none of those things were handed to the workers of this country,” she said in a statement. “We had to fight for them together.”
The event – organized by the City of Campbell River and the Campbell River, Courtenay and District Labour Council – was also attended by Coun. Michele Babchuk on behalf of city council, staff representing MLA and Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Claire Trevena, and Rod Saunders of WorkSafeBC, Lovely said.
This article was updated on April 30 with information about two work-related death claims from 2018 in the Strathcona Regional District.