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Mourn the dead, fight for the living (Updated)

A school child prepares to lay a rose at the foot of a newly unveiled monument honouring the Day of Mourning.
A school child prepares to lay a rose at the foot of a newly unveiled monument honouring the Day of Mourning.

Wayne Samuelson knows what can go wrong in the workplace, and the president of the Ontario Federation of Labour shared that knowledge Wednesday morning.

Samuelson was in North Bay for the annual Day of Mourning ceremony, held outside city hall.

Died that night
The event honours working people who have been injured or killed on the job, or contracted an industrial disease.

Several hundred people attended, and Samuelson asked them to reflect on what the Day of Mourning meant to them.

Then he spoke about what the day means to him.

“Almost 30 years ago I was working the night shift at a tire factory when I heard a loud bang, and a friend of mine died that night,” Samuelson said.

“This was an accident that should not have happened and didn’t have to happen, and 30 years later I think of that friend and I think of his family, his kids and how wrong it is.”

What needs to be done
Samuelson then talked about the new the OFL’s discussions with the new Ontario Liberal government.

He said “lots” of meetings have been held with the province around health and safety issues, “certainly a difference than we’ve seen for the last eight years.”

“But I’ve got to be honest with you,” Samuelson said.

“Every single day that we spend chatting, going to meetings, and listening to announcements about what this provincial government is going to do, more workers are injured, more workers are killed and it’s time for action and it’s time to stop talking. We all know what needs to be done.”

Legalized murder
Winnie Ng, a representative from the Canadian Federation of Labour, said that in 2002, the last year statistics were available, 934 Canadians lost their lives in the workplace.

“These are not workplace accidents,” Ng said, “these are legalized murders and should not be accepted, and we should hold the employers and the employer community responsible.”

Too high a price
A monument honouring dead or injured workers was also unveiled at the Day of Mourning ceremony.

Rev. Terry O’Connor said that, in dedicating the monument, “we’re saying that human life is too high a price to pay for progress.”

“The sacrifice of human blood is too high, and no commodity is worth snuffing out human breath,” O’Connor said.

“We honour those who have paid the supreme sacrifice and we demand in justice that their sacrifice not be in vain. We demand an end to the carnage in the workplace.”

After O'Connor spoke, a group of school children was led to the monument, where each child dropped a rose to commemorate lives lost, lives diminished or lives inalterably changed.