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Ministerial Statement on the National Day of Mourning

May 2, 2017
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. Every year on April 28 we honour and remember those who died from workplace- related illness and injury. It is known as the Day of Mourning. While I’m glad that we set aside a day each year to honour and remember those who died from workplace-related illness and injury, it’s heartbreaking that this day is necessary and that every year some Albertans do not make it home at the end of the workday. Every worker has the right to come home safely at the end of the day, from the very first shift through to retirement. My hope is that the Day of Mourning motivates employers, workers, and government to continue working together to improve occupational health and safety in all industries across this province.

In 2016 there were 144 deaths related to workplace illnesses and injuries. These 144 people died because they went to work, but they were more than just workers. They were someone’s grandparents, parents, siblings, spouses, children, and friends. They were children’s sports coaches and community volunteers. They touched lives and made their communities better places. Their contributions made our lives richer, and their absence makes our lives poorer. It’s tragic to see families ripped apart, friends left heartbroken, co- workers traumatized, and our communities suffering. We can and we must do better. I believe employers, workers, and government all have a responsibility to create healthier, safer workplaces and a better world.

Mr. Speaker, this year’s Day of Mourning also marks the 25th anniversary of the Westray mine disaster in Nova Scotia. On May 9, 1992, a large explosion in the Westray mine, in Plymouth, killed 26 underground miners, that day’s entire shift of workers who were underground. A subsequent public inquiry blamed mine management and government regulators for what was deemed a preventable disaster. In response to the Westray mine disaster the federal government amended the Criminal Code to allow criminal charges in serious cases of workplace fatalities or injuries. That law applies to anyone on a work site who directs the work of others.

Mr. Speaker, I was proud last Friday when our government signed the Westray memorandum of understanding with 10 police services across the province. This memorandum will define protocols between occupational health and safety officers and police officers when investigating serious workplace incidents to help determine if criminal charges are warranted. By defining roles and protocols, police can focus on any criminal activity that may have occurred and investigators can ensure that their time is spent on the incident investigation, to the benefit of all Albertans. This was an important action for our government to take because it will help OH and S and police better serve and protect Albertans and help ensure that every worker comes home safe at the end of the day.

Mr. Speaker, I encourage all members of this Legislature and all Albertans to take a moment and remember those who lost their lives due to workplace illness or injury. And as we go forward, I encourage all Albertans to commit to working together to create healthier, safer workspaces. Thank you.

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