Fallen workers honoured in Fort St. John

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Tom Summer Local Journalism Initiative, Alaska Highway News
The Local Journalism Initiative (LJI) supports the creation of original civic journalism. Tom Summer works under the Alaska Highway News in Fort St. John. The content that is produced will be made available to media organizations through a Creative Commons license so that Canadians can be better informed.

FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – Workers who lost their lives on the job were honoured in the Peace region Tuesday.

Day of Mourning ceremonies were held in Fort St. John and Hudson’s Hope April 28, including a safe and physically distanced wreath laying at Centennial Park by the city at 10:30 a.m., followed by the BCGEU at 11 a.m.

Last year, 140 B.C. workers lost their lives due to workplace injury and illness, including 40 from traumatic injuries suffered in the workplace, 16 involved a motor vehicle incident, and 84 as a result of occupational disease. Asbestos exposure continues to be the number one killer of workers in B.C., according to WorkSafeBC.

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There were eight people who died due to work-related accidents in the Peace region last year.

The Canadian Labour Congress first recognized the Day of Mourning in 1984, making Canada the first country to formally commemorate workers killed in the workplace. In 1991, the federal government officially proclaimed the national Day of Mourning, which is now recognized in 100 countries.

In Fort St. John, the BCGEU has organized the event, and a lunch has been provided by the local Labour Council for the past 10 years.

Traditionally, the BCGEU has been joined by the City and Worksafe BC, as well as labour and Industry representatives, though protocols this year were different to ensure safety due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Although this year’s observation was different, it does not diminish the importance of this day each year where we stop what we are doing to remember those and to recommit to ensuring that workplaces are safe and people go home to their families,” said Judy Fox-McGuire of the BCGEU.

Hudson’s Hope hosted its ceremony virtually, with video addresses by district staff, BCGEU, BC Hydro, and Mayor Dave Heiberg. Traditionally, the small town hosts the ceremony at the cenotaph just outside the district office.

Flags at the cenotaph were lowered to half-mast, and orange wreaths, hardhats, and work-boots were also be placed at the cenotaph, and captured on video for the public. 

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“We’re still acknowledging this day because it is important, and to have a sense of community despite the restrictions. You never know how each individual has been affected by workplace tragedy,” said special events co-ordinator Kristina Coombs.

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