Northumberland Labour Council held a ceremony at Lucas Point Park in Cobourg on April 28, 2023 to recognise the National Day of Mourning for workers, injured , killed or made ill by hazardous work.
President of the Northumberland Labour Council, Dan Tobin said, “one death is too many – we must do better,” when speaking to the crowd that was gathered in Cobourg’s east end for the ceremony.
A number of people spoke during the ceremony inlcuding Marsha Smoke from Alderville First Nation, Town of Cobourg Deputy Mayor Nicol Beater, Cramahe Township Mayor and Northumberland County Warden Mandy Martin along with Canadian Labour Congress Representative Felicia Samuel.
(Because of the strong wind it was hard to capture video of the speeches. All representatives gave their speeches to Today’s Northumberland except for Canadian Labour Congress Representative Felcia Sameul)
Marsha Smoke Alderville First Nation
My name is Marsha Smoke, my Spirit name is Niigaani MkwaKwe, and I am from the Bear Clan.
It is with honour to accept the invitation from Mr. Dan Tobin, President of the Northumberland Labour Council to, once again, join you at the Day of Mourning ceremony here at beautiful Lucas Point Park in Cobourg.
As a First Nation person, it’s part of our culture when visiting the land of another person to acknowledge it as such. It is also our tradition, and a gesture of respect, to welcome people to our homelands.
So, it is my pleasure to respectfully acknowledge that we are here on the homelands of the Michi Saagiig Nation and the Wendat Nation. The Michi Saagiig are Anishinabe and we have been here since time immemorial. The Wendat Nation were also original inhabitants but were forced relocated to the Quebec City area where they still reside today.
I acknowledge our Elders, our Veterans, our Knowledge Keepers, our Residential School survivors, our Day School Survivors, our Ceremonies and our sacred items.
I acknowledge all of you here today along with your ancestors, and our brothers and sisters from other First Nations, Inuit and Metis communities who have, over time, gravitated to this area to live, to work, or to raise your families, and call our beautiful Williams Treaty territory your home.
The National Day of Mourning touches us all.
First Nations have fallen victim to workplace tragedies and life altering injuries and we all grieve for our loved ones.
The grief we feel inside remains unseen, however, on April 28th, this is the day we can remove our masks and mourn publicly with each other.
As a First Nations person, I honour all of the individuals and families affected by workplace tragedies, whether its a fatality, a life-altering injury or an occupational disease. We grieve so many things.
The National Day of Mourning means that compassionate supporters, like you, are mourning along side, whether you have experienced such a tragedy or not.
On a day such as today when Canadians ask the question, “How can we get involved in Reconciliation with Indigenous peoples”, expressing your interest is a first step. Your willingness to invite us to walk this healing path together, on the National Day of Mourning, is reconciliation.
We can reflect on the truth, and learn from the past, and together, we can walk in friendship and understanding toward the future.
Miigwech! Thank you! Merci Boucoup!
Be well. Be Safe. We’ll see you next time.
Deputy Mayor of Cobourg Nicole Beatty
Today, we pause to remember and honour those who have lost their lives, suffered an injury or illness on the job, or experienced a work-related tragedy. As we reflect on the sacrifices made by workers across the country, we are reminded of the importance of workplace safety and the need for ongoing efforts to prevent workplace accident.
This year marks the 39th anniversary of the National Day of Mourning, established in 1984 by the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC). The day serves as a reminder of the human toll of workplace accidents and the ongoing need to prioritize health and safety in the workplace.
I’m reminded today of a conversation I had with a widow last September while out doorknocking for the election. She had just commemorated the anniversary of the passing of her beloved partner, who lost their life at work. Her grief was ever heavy, and through soft tears, she quietly talked about how they loved taking their young kids to Cobourg Beach and how excited her partner was about relocating to the community a few short years ago. My heart aches for her today and everyone who has lost a loved one doing a job they loved.
While progress has been made in improving workplace safety, much work remains. Sadly, more than two workers perish every day in Canada, according to the Association of Workers’ Compensation Boards in Canada, and in Ontario there is a workplace fatality almost every day.
These are not just statistics; they are real people with families and loves ones affected by their loss.
Today serves as an important reminder of the tremendous responsibility of employers in keeping their employees safe. As we honour those impacted by workplace accidents, let us commit to preventing future tragedies. This means prioritizing workplace safety, providing adequate employee training and resources, and holding employers accountable for maintaining safe working conditions.
Thank you to the Northumberland Labour Council for coordinating today’s ceremony; for holding space for people who have lost a loved one or colleague; for providing safe support for people to share and process their grief as we remember them today and always.
(Councillor Adam Bureau placed a wreath on behalf ot the Town of Cobourg)
Cramahe Township Mayor – Northumberland County Warden Mandy Martin
Thank you Northumberland Labour Council for organizing today’s event.
We commemorate those who have lost their lives, suffered injury, or experienced illness as a result of their work. We keep their loved ones and colleagues in our hearts and minds.
In 2021, there were over 1,000 workplace fatalities recorded in Cobourg and over 277,000 accepted claims for lost time due to work-related injury or disease.
We can – and we must – do better.
This day of remembrance is an important opportunity to raise awareness about issues of workplace safety – and to collectively renew our commitment to preserving and promoting safe and healthy work environments.
Employers must demonstrate diligence and leadership and workers must be supported and empowered to actively participate in making safer workplaces.
As an elected official, I have had the opportuity to meet with many Northumberland employers and tour local facilities over the years. I have seen first-hand the collaborative, focussed work that can result.
Productivity gains, innovation and employee engagement can be achieved when people feel safe and can thrive in their work environment.
Today, flags at Northumberland County Headquarters have been lowered to half-mast. Headquarters will be lit up in yellow this evening to further commemorate this day.
Let these symblos serve as a reminder that ensuring a safe workplace is a shared responsibility – with employers, employees, givernment, and the community working together to assess and put measures in place to ensure occupational illnesses, injuries and fatalities never occur again.
Be safe – and thank you.