Day of Mourning

April 20, 2001

The North Okanagan Labour Council will be observing the National Day of Mourning for workers killed and injured on the job in Vernon and Kelowna on April 28.

At Ben Lee Park in Kelowna, a ceremony will be held at the site where a tree was planted last year to mark the Day of Mourning. NOLC President Marie Mentz will lead the ceremony at 11 a.m. and invites the public to attend.

In Vernon, the NOLC will sponsor a tree near the Veteran's Memorial in the new Memory Lane linear park on Okanagan Landing Road. A plaque will note that the tree has been dedicated by the NOLC to workers who have been injured on the job.

Also to mark the Day of Mourning, the North Okanagan Labour Council will be purchasing and distributing to public and school libraries 25 copies of the book, Dead But Not Forgotten - Monuments to Workers, written by Ontario author Ed Thomas, a member of CUPE in Hamilton.

Begun by the Canadian Labour Congress in 1984, the Day of Mourning is now observed worldwide. Labour councils throughout the province will be hosting ceremonies and events to mark the day.

"Along with remembering workers who have been injured and killed at the workplace, the purpose of the Day of Mourning is also to promote workplace safety," said David Mitchell, vice-president of the labour council.

This year, the Day of Mourning is focusing on the prevention of two major workplace ailments - cancer and muscoskeletal injuries.

While many people might not think of cancer as a workplace illness, it is estimated between four and 40 per cent of cancers are work-related, with the most likely figure around 20 per cent, reports the Canadian Labour Congress, which has launched the Prevent Cancer Campaign.

"Common carcinogens are found in many workplace chemicals and many workers manufacture or are exposed to such carcinogenic products as asbestos, synthetic mineral fibres, wood dust, tobacco, alcohols, pesticides and herbicides, some food additives and more," said Mitchell.

Other workplace factors such as electromagnetic fields, stress and shift work have also been linked to increased cancer rates.

Better known as a workplace health issue, MSI is more commonly known to many people as repetitive strain injury (RSI).

MSI, while becoming well known, is still not well understood. It often is not recognized as work-related, is usually painful and long-lasting, and is often poorly diagnosed and treated inappropriately.

"About 50 per cent of legitimate MSI claims are still turned down by workers' compensation boards," said Mitchell.

The CLC reports that MSI injuries related to the design of work stations, organization and operations account for about a third of all occupational injuries.

The CLC is campaigning for national ergonomic standards to combat MSI. British Columbia, the congress notes, has good ergonomics legislation, but it is poorly enforced.

And it's not just people who work on computers, who get these soft-tissue injuries. "All occupations, including assembly line workers, cashiers and hospital workers are affected," noted Mitchell.

April 28 was chosen as the day of remembrance because this was the day that third reading took place for the first comprehensive Workers Compensation Act (Ontario 1914) in Canada. Parliament recognized the Day of Mourning in 1991.



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