Day of Mourning: Fight for the Living, Mourn for the Dead

For more than 30 years, April 28th has been observed in Ontario as the Day of Mourning: a day to honour workers who have died, been injured, or suffer an illness due to their workplace. In 1991, it became a nationally observed day and this “Workers’ Memorial Day” is now observed in more than 100 countries.

This year, more than 50 Day of Mourning events will take place across Ontario at the sites of major workplace accidents, at monuments and memorials, at parks and city halls on April 27th and 28th. Flags will fly at half-mast on Parliament Hill and at Queen’s Park.

In honour of the Day of Mourning, we want to shine a spotlight on two important organizations dedicated to helping prevent workplace injury and death, and to helping those affected by the death or serious injury of a loved one.

MySafeWork.com is run by father-daughter duo Rob Ellis and Jessica DiSabatino, whose son and brother David was killed on the second day of a temporary job when he was 18. Rob and Jessica have made it their mission to make Canada’s workplaces the safest, and regularly tour colleges and workplaces with their message.

This year, to mark the Day of Mourning, they will be presenting a free one-hour broadcast called “Courageous: Stand Up to Unsafe Work”, which “empowers students and workers to stand up to unsafe work. It features inspirational stories and practical advice from public leaders and safe work experts.”

Another admirable organization is Threads of Life (the Association for Workplace Tragedy Family Support). Threads of Life currently supports 2700 family members and welcomes “everyone affected by a workplace tragedy, including family members, friends, and co-workers. Members come from all regions of Canada, all walks of life, and all age groups. Even so, Threads of Life is a club no one wants to join.”

These support services include Volunteer Family Guides – trained volunteers who have gone through a similar experience and offer compassionate support to bereaved or grieving family members in person, over the phone, or by email.  Family Forums bring families together in person to learn and share with each other. Peer Support Groups give a safe space to share experiences and learn coping skills, and the Speakers Bureau trains and coaches survivors to share their personal stories in public to spread awareness of workplace injury prevention.

Threads for Life also runs a national, multi-city fundraiser walk every year called Steps for Life. The event raises funds to provide programming, educate the community, and promote a cultural shift to improve workplace health and safety. This year, 11 walks will take place in Ontario between April 22 and May 12.