For the labour movement in many countries, April 28 is a solemn day to honour workers who died on the job. The 14 workers who died in New Brunswick In 2021 were honoured in Edmundston, Bathurst, Miramichi, Moncton, Saint John and Fredericton.
At the Fredericton ceremony on the waterfront at the Fredericton Fallen Firefighters’ Monument, Leica Gahan from the support group Threads of Life spoke about the events leading to the death of her 21-year old son at a construction site in Alberta more than five years ago.
“I thought he was safe,” she said. Her son’s employer had a safety committee and seemed to be following safety protocols but it was only window dressing, she explained. Gahan urged parents to ensure that their children and grandchildren work in safe environments. She said vigilance is particularly important when young people enter their first job and their excitement may cause them to let their guard down.
The Fredericton ceremony was organized by George Nickerson, New Brunswick Federation of Labour vice president responsible for workplace health and safety and officiated by Tyler McCready of the Fredericton Fire Fighters Association, IAFF Local 1053.
Attendees placed 14 red roses at the Fallen Firefighters’ Monument and observed a minute of silence.
May 9 this year marks the 30th anniversary of the Westray disaster, when 26 miners were killed in an explosion underground in Pictou County Nova Scotia caused by a buildup of methane gas. After a long advocacy campaign, changes were made to the Criminal Code of Canada, known as the Westray law. However criminal charges are still hardly ever pursued, say experts.
“Despite the fact that too many workers are killed at work every year, police and prosecutors are not using the Westray amendments and are not investigating workplace fatalities through the lens of criminal accountability,” said George Nickerson. “This needs to change. Goverments at all levels must make sure that existing health and safety laws and regulations are being enforced.”
Susan O’Donnell writes for the NB Media Co-op.