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B.C. remembers fallen workers on National Day of Mourning

Click to play video: 'Grieving Kelowna mother calls for more workplace safety after her son lost his life while working at a construction site' Grieving Kelowna mother calls for more workplace safety after her son lost his life while working at a construction site
An emotional afternoon at a Kelowna park today as the mother of one of the young construction workers who lost their life in the downtown crane collapse last summer spoke out. Danielle Pritchett was a keynote speaker at the Day of Mourning event, which honours lives lost in the workplace. As Klaudia Van Emmerik reports, the grieving mother is pleading with employers and workers to make safety a top priority so that no other parent has to experience what she calls the worst pain of her life – Apr 28, 2022

Locals and officials gathered at the Jack Poole Plaza in Vancouver Thursday in honour of the National Day of Morning, and to remember all B.C. workers who lost their lives on the job last year.

According to WorkSafeBC, 161 work-related deaths occurred in 2021, marking the fourth year in a row this stat has increased. Asbestos exposure was linked to nearly a third of those deaths, with many exposures happening decades earlier.

“All workers and contractors must be trained fully and must be certified in order to perform any work that has asbestos in those workplaces,” said Labour Minister Harry Bains. “There are stronger penalties for (ignoring) that now.”

Read more: Mother of crane collapse victim calls for changes to workplace culture to make safety top priority

Other labour concerns growing within B.C. include the rise in the implementation of virtual cashiers and self-checkout models. Toronto-based restaurant chain Freshii has faced criticism for replacing cashiers in three Ontario locations with virtual workers employed from Nicaragua for $3.75 an hour, significantly below the provincial minimum wage.

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When asked about his concern about such practices, Bains was firm on the subject.

“My message to all employers in British Columbia is that we e have minimum standards and protections for all workers and that they must follow those.”

Read more: Freshii introduces ‘Percy’ virtual cashier, outsourcing jobs to Central America  

Click to play video: 'Mother of B.C. tugboat victim frustrated by lack of changes' Mother of B.C. tugboat victim frustrated by lack of changes
Mother of B.C. tugboat victim frustrated by lack of changes – Apr 29, 2022

Other provinces across the nation also observed the Day of Mourning, with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau releasing a statement on Thursday.

“Today, on the National Day of Mourning, we remember and honour every Canadian worker who has been killed or injured in the workplace. Our thoughts are with all those who live with the pain of these tragedies every day.”

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The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety reported 925 workplace fatalities in 2019, according to their most recent report.

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