Manitoba’s unions mark National Day of Mourning

April 28, 2023

(Winnipeg) – Manitoba’s unions marked the National Day of Mourning today, with a walk from the Union Centre to Winnipeg’s Memorial Park, followed by a ceremony in front of the Workers Memorial. The National Day of Mourning is a day to remember and honour those who have been killed or suffered injuries or illness at work. 

Every year across Canada, over 1,000 workers lose their lives as a result of workplace deaths. Sadly, 22 Manitoba workers died from workplace accidents and illnesses in 2022. Unions also honoured five others who died in previous years and whose deaths have now been recognized as work-related.

“Every worker deserves to make it home safely to their loved ones at the end of every shift,” said Kevin Rebeck, president of the Manitoba Federation of Labour. “Each one of these deaths represents a family member, friend and co-worker who never made it home. While today is about mourning, it is also about re-committing ourselves to making workplaces safer to prevent these tragic losses in the future.”

Rebeck noted that half of Manitoba workplace deaths in the last year were from occupational diseases that workers acquired from exposure to harmful material and chemicals over the course of their working lives. He added that workers suffering from occupational diseases often face barriers in proving that their illness is work-related in order to qualify for workers compensation support. This lack of recognition also means that countless workers continue working while being exposed deadly hazards.

In 2021, the provincial government passed legislation to empower the Workers Compensation Board (WCB) to create a schedule of presumptive diseases to make it easier to recognize these diseases as work-related to help workers receive WCB support. British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, Quebec, Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia have long recognized the need to support workers who suffer occupational diseases with their own schedules of presumptive diseases as part of their workers compensation systems. Unfortunately, in the two years since the legislation was passed, the WCB has failed to establish the schedule.

“On this National Day of Mourning, the WCB owes it to the workers who have died from occupational diseases to finally establish that schedule of presumptive diseases so that workers and their families receive the support that they deserve,” said Rebeck.