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Government of Canada issues joint statement on the National Day of Mourning

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GATINEAU, QC, April 28, 2021 – The Minister of Labour, Filomena Tassi, the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, David Lametti, and the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, Bill Blair, issued the following statement today on the National Day of Mourning:

“Everyone has the right to a healthy and safe working environment. Sadly, not all workplaces are safe. Every year, thousands of Canadians are killed, injured or suffer workplace-related illnesses on the job. 

Thirty years ago, the Parliament of Canada passed the Workers Mourning Day Act, making April 28 an official Day of Mourning for persons killed or injured in the workplace in Canada. Every year on this day, we pause to pay our respects and remember these workers. We honour them and acknowledge the grief felt by their family and friends who miss their lost loved ones or have had to see them suffer from injury.

The COVID-19 pandemic has once again highlighted the importance of health and safety in the workplace. Important measures, such as the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit, have been put in place to protect workers and to make sure Canada’s front-line and essential workers are supported. Today, we also reflect on these workers and their families across Canada. 

As we pause to reflect, it is important to remember that April 28 also represents a day of action. That is why the Government of Canada is renewing its commitment to improve health and safety in the workplace and prevent further injuries, illnesses and deaths. Better health and safety in the workplace happens through diligent, deliberate actions carried out by workers and employers. However, our government recognizes that more can and must be done to make our workplaces safe and to give Canadian workers confidence in the laws that exist to protect them.

The 1992 Westray mine tragedy resulted in legislative changes regarding how to establish the criminal liability of corporations for workplace deaths and injuries. This includes the enactment of a legal duty in the Criminal Code for people who direct the work of others to take reasonable steps to prevent harm to workers and the public. The violation of this duty can lead to a criminal conviction and result in significant penalties.

The federal government has been working collaboratively with its partners and stakeholders to make sure that the Criminal Code’s Westray provisions are properly understood and applied effectively. Last year, as part of this work, we published a series of fact sheets regarding criminal liability for workplace deaths and injuries: Background on the Westray Law, Criminal Code offences and their application by the courts, and Sentencing of individuals and organizations.

Since then, the federal government has worked with employee representatives, employers, and the provinces and territories to develop training resources, such as the online course entitled Investigating Serious Injuries and Fatalities in the Workplace. This training has been endorsed by the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police and is available to law enforcement officers, prosecutors and labour inspectors via the Canadian Police Knowledge Network. Effective investigations facilitate prosecutions where criminal wrongdoing exists, and are one aspect of building a more robust culture of workplace safety.

Taken together, these resources will lead to a greater understanding of roles and responsibilities—for employers, regulatory health and safety inspectors, police and prosecutors—regarding occupational health and safety and criminal conduct, and will contribute to healthier and safer workplaces for everyone.”

Associated Links

Workplace health and safety

SOURCE Employment and Social Development Canada

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