Paying tribute to lives lost, injured on the job

“Life will never be the same” for a family whose brother, uncle and friend was killed while working in construction in Sept. 2017.

“It devastated my family,” Threads of Life guest speaker C.K. DesGrosseilliers told community and staff members attending the National Day of Mourning service at Markham Council Chamber on April 26.

“Within four months, my dad had died of cancer – even though he had successfully fought bladder cancer for over 40 years,” C.K. DesGrosseilliers said about the death of brother, Tim. “One life lost is too many. Workplace deaths, disease and injuries must stop being acceptable to people and to shareholders.”

The Association for Workplace Tragedy Family Support, known as Threads of Life, is a national registered charity dedicated to supporting families along their journey of healing who have suffered from a workplace fatality, life-altering workplace injury or occupational disease.

Threads of Life participants and supports share their stories to help ensure others understand the importance of workplace safety. On an average working day in Canada, three workers are killed or die as a result of an occupational disease, the association reports.

Flags at the City of Markham flew at half mast on April 28 to commemorate the National Day of Mourning in tribute to lives lost or injured due to a workplace tragedy. “As a community, we have come a long way when it comes to protecting our workers and in creating a safe workplace but sadly tragedy can still happen,” says Mayor Frank Scarpitti.

“We all have a duty. We are all responsible for ensuring these incidents are prevented. At the City of Markham, we are proud of our commitment to workplace health and safety and we vow to always do more.”

The Canadian Labour Congress selected April 28 as the National Day of Mourning in 1984 to align with the 70th anniversary of the day the provincial government approved the Ontario Workers’ Compensation Act. Eight years later, the federal government passed the Workers Mourning Day, making it an official Day of Mourning. The Day of Mourning has since spread to about 100 countries around the world.

“Every year we take time to reflect on all the lives lost in the line of duty, which reminds us just how important safety is in the workplace,” says Deputy Chief Adam Grant, Markham Fire & Emergency Services. “We need to continue making improvements to ensure we are doing everything possible to protect our staff.”

“We must never forget those who have been seriously injured or lost their lives while doing their jobs,” says Rob Kerfoot, Unit Chairperson for CUPE Local 905 Markham Unit. “Everyone must work together to prevent further tragic incidents and ensure there is safety in the workplace.”

Mayor Frank Scarpitti, members of council, CAO Andy Taylor, Catherine Conrad, Deputy Fire Chief Adam Grant, Jeremy Acton, Nancy Myles, Rob Kerfoot and C.K. DesGrosseilliers light a candle and pause for a moment of silence to remember and honour the families and friends who have been affected by these workplace tragedies. Photo courtesy of the City of Markham.

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