April 28 Is the National Day of Mourning

Christine Mandegarian was a personal support worker employed at Altamont Care Community. She lived in Markham, Ontario. She was a mother of two. She loved her job. For over 30 years she worked to improve the lives of the Canadians trusted to her care. And on April 15, 2020 she lost her life after contracting COVID-19.

Each year hundreds of Canadian workers lose their lives because of preventable workplace injuries and illnesses. Since 1991, people across Canada have observed National Day of Mourning to remember and honour those Canadians.

That’s why on April 28th you will see the Canadian flag flown at half-mast across our country.

It Started With A Canadian Miner

Now observed in over 100 countries worldwide, Workers’ Memorial Day or National Day of Mourning began in Canada with the actions of a miner.

Colin Lambert was a Canadian steelworker and miner working in Sudbury, Ontario who was instrumental in pushing for worker’s safety. In the 1970s, he became a full-time labour activist who fought for workers’ rights and greater accountability for workplace safety.

Ray Sentes was a labour activist in Alberta and an outspoken advocate for the elimination of asbestos. He was also Colin’s “great friend.”

In 1983 the pair were driving together when they happened to see a funeral procession for a firefighter. They thought that we, as Canadians, should honour any worker injured or killed at work or because of their workthe same as firefighters or police officers killed on duty. 

Later that year, Colin and Ray were instrumental in convincing the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE)Canada’s largest labour union—to pass a resolution recognizing a national day of mourning for all workers who are injured or killed while working. Almost ten years later the Parliament of Canada made it a National Day of Mourning. 

Why April 28th? The day was picked because on April 28th in 1914 Ontario passed the Worker’s Compensation Act—the first legislation in Canada to make sure companies compensated injured workers.

Sadly, Ray lost his life at the age of 56 from asbestosisan illness he contracted working with asbestos insulation. In his later years, he continued his commitment to workplace safety as an advocate for asbestos victims.

What Can We Do?

In 2022, there were nearly 350,000 Canadians injured at work while 993 Canadians lost their lives. 

We can all do more. At OSG we know that every workplace accident is preventable. The more that we all, employers and employees, take workplace health and safety seriously, the greater our chances that each year we see those numbers decline.

As the Government of Canada reminds us, the National Day of Mourning is also a time to reflect on making our workplaces safer:

“When we hear news of a worker falling to their death or dying from a work-related cancer – it reminds us that behind every statistic there is a person with a family and coworkers who belongs to a community. The suffering of every work-related tragedy extends beyond the worker and impacts us all. And it is for this very reason that on this national day of remembrance we turn our attention to creating healthier, safer workplaces, and preventing further tragedies. Because one is one too many.”

Gareth Jones, President and Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS)

See something in your workplace that you feel is unsafe? Tell your supervisor. Have an idea for how to make a process safer? Let your organization know. 

Workplace safety and wellbeing is everyone’s responsibility.

A Moment of Silence

Those who knew her described Christine Mandegarian as the “life of the party” who had “an amazing sense of humour.” Sadly, she is one of a thousand Canadians each year whose job cost them their life.

Workplace safety and wellbeing is everyone’s responsibility.

At 11 o’clock on April 28th, OSG staff will observe a moment of silence to remember the Canadians who have been injured in the workplace or have lost their lives.

We take this moment of silence to honour the people who were injured or lost their lives because of their work. We take this moment of silence to honour their families. We take this moment to be grateful for the strides we’ve taken as a country and for all those who work tirelessly to ensure that Canadians come home from work safely. And we take this moment to continue our commitment to safety and workplace wellbeing.

We invite you to join us.