Cornwall’s Day of Mourning focuses on Westray Law

Haley Berniquer, a grade 10 student at St. Lawrence Secondary School, listens to the speakers during a service in Lamoureux Park. Scenes from the National Day of Mourning service in Cornwall, Ont. on Friday, April 28, 2017. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston)

CORNWALL – The 25th anniversary of a mining disaster in Atlantic Canada and a Sudbury worker killed on the job this year highlighted Cornwall ceremonies for the National Day of Mourning for those killed and injured at work.

Students from St. Lawrence Secondary School, politicians, workers and members of various unions gathered at the Day of Mourning Monument in Lamoureux Park just before noon Friday.

The yearly event on April 28 is organized by the Cornwall and District Labour Council.

The Westray disaster happened in 1992 in Nova Scotia where an explosion killed 26 coal miners – one of the deadliest mining disasters in Canadian history. The disaster brought about new laws making employer negligence a punishable act.

“We are celebrating today because the federal government’s announcement that they will act to ensure effective enforcement of the Westray law. We must now ensure coordination between all levels of government,” said Louise Lanctot, president of the labour council.

“When criminal negligence results in a worker’s death, it’s a crime, not an accident,” she said.

The ceremony also touched on a workplace death in Northern Ontario. Rheal Dionne, a 39-year-old Sudbury truck driver was killed in February, while driving a dump truck for a concrete company.

Heather Jiujias, human resources manager at Olymel, places a white rose at the foot of the Day of Mourning Monument. Scenes from the National Day of Mourning service in Cornwall, Ont. on Friday, April 28, 2017. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston)

Duncan MacDonald with the Ontario Federation of Labour said it’s not just about people killed and injured on the job but also long term health effects.

“Sometimes people are hurt and it doesn’t show up for years,” MacDonald said.

“It would be great if next year at the Day of Mourning there’s no one listed that ws injured or killed at the workplace.”

MacDonald also noted the work of former Cornwall area MP Darby Bergin 138 years ago, who championed change for working conditions at the cotton mills.

The ceremony also heard from Cornwall Mayor Leslie O’Shaughnessy, MPP Jim McDonell and MP Guy Lauzon.

It concluded with the laying of white and red roses at the foot of the monument in Lamoureux Park.

Click on a thumbnail below to open a gallery of photos from the ceremony.

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