TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwired - Apr 26, 2013) - Thousands of workers, friends and families of those killed and injured on the job will gather at ceremonies across Ontario this weekend to memorialize the labour movement's most solemn occasion-the annual Day of Mourning to renew our call to "Fight for the Living and Mourn for the Dead."
This year also marks the 10th anniversary of the passing of Bill C-45, historic legislation known as the Westray Bill, which amended the Criminal Code of Canada to hold employers criminally liable when their negligence caused the death or serious injury of employees. The Westray Bill provided a new regime outlining the framework of corporate liability in Canada.
When the amendments came into effect in 2004, workers across the country welcomed the promise of serious sanctions to ensure that there would never be another disaster like the one in Nova Scotia's Westray coal mine that killed 26 miners on May 9, 1992 after ignited methane gas caused a massive underground explosion. However, every year since the law was introduced, roughly 400 Ontario workers continue to be killed on the job and 200,000 others are injured at work while not one Ontario employer has ever been brought to justice.
"Unless employers are held personally liable, they will continue to put profit ahead of the lives of their workers," said OFL President Sid Ryan. "This carnage will continue in the workplace as long as the criminal justice system continues to fail victims and survivors. How many workers must die before bosses start ending up behind bars?"
Since 1985, April 28 has been recognized across Canada as the International Day of Mourning for Workers Killed or Injured on the Job. The purpose of Day of Mourning is twofold-to remember and honour fallen workers and to renew the commitment to health and safety protections that prevent further work-related deaths, injuries and diseases. While such a mandate is important in any year, this year there is a chance to enshrine these principles into the laws of Ontario.
Immediately following the December 24 tragedy in 2009, the OFL launched a Kill a Worker, Go to Jail campaign that led to a province-wide review of health and safety laws. In response, the Ontario government established a Prevention Council and proposed Bill 160 to amend the Occupational Health and Safety Act and the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act. The Bill implemented many of the recommendations of the Expert Advisory Panel on Occupational Health and Safety. Once fully implemented the recommendations will be the most significant changes to Ontario's health and safety system in over two decades.
"We need a commitment from every police chief and every crown attorney in Ontario that they will instruct officers and prosecutors to investigate every workplace tragedy as a crime scene," said OFL Secretary-Treasurer Nancy Hutchison. "Police must collect evidence and prosecutors must build their cases, just like they do with any other violent offence. Accidents are accidents, but when employers ignore safety protocols, then a crime has taken place and there must be serious consequences."
This April 28, the Ontario Federation of Labour will be remembering the hundreds of workers across Canada who die needlessly each year in workplace disasters and the hundreds of thousands more who are injured while trying to provide for their families and their future.
"Workers and their families will not stop campaigning for justice until bosses and CEOs who endanger the lives of workers are escorted from their boardrooms in handcuffs," said Ryan. "Without justice, no fallen worker can rest in peace."