To the Editor:

Every April 28, since the National Day of Mourning for Workers Killed and Injured on the Job was established in 1985, the Cornwall &  District Labour Council has hosted a memorial service at the Workers’ Monument in Lamoureux Park.

In the years since 1985, 25,000 workers have died of injury or work-related disease in Canada. The ceremony mourns those men and women who went to work and never came home, or if they did, it was with a serious and often debilitating injury, which often led to an early death or a lifetime of disability. The causal events of those 25,000 deaths were typically industrial, agricultural of construction, in workplaces where the dangers are well known and guarded against. But not in 2020-2021. During the pandemic, hospitals and care centres became the most dangerous of workplaces. The threat came silently and struck both vulnerable patients and residents and felled the caregivers themselves.

Accordingly, this year, on April 28, the focus at the monument in Cornwall is on medical workers: nurses, orderlies and doctors, but especially on personal support workers whose death and debilitating disease tolls were highest. They cared for the sick and became ill themselves. At first, the danger in their workplace was unseen and unexpected and later, as knowledge and understanding of the virus and its potency grew, those workers, now as vulnerable as their charges, were faced with shortages and sometimes rationing of protective equipment, and they kept going back to work, most often because there were no sick leave benefits for them.

The spokesperson for the ceremony of mourning is Natalie Mehra, Executive Director of the Ontario Health Coalition, and the general public is welcome to attend at 11:45 at the Workers’ Monument in Lamoureux Park in Cornwall, in front of the Kinsmen Play Area.

Elaine MacDonald,
Secretary of the Cornwall & District Labour Council