It was an emotional day in Woss as residents and workers gathered to honour the National Day of Mourning.
The National Day of Mourning, held each year on April 28, honours those who lost their lives or were seriously injured in a workplace accident.
The day is especially poignant for Woss, as April 20 marked the one-year anniversary of the Englewood Logging Train rail car accident that killed three forestry workers.
The April 28 service was held in the Nimpkish Valley Heritage Park, in front of Locomotive 113. A crowd of more than 100 people gathered for the 10:30 a.m. service wearing black armbands and orange ribbons, which were handed out by the United Steelworkers Union.
After an introduction by Rob Shambrook, Operation Manager at Englewood Forest Operations,‘Namgis Chief Don Svanvik provided the opening remarks.
“When I first received the invitation, I thought it was specific to here. I’ve come to understand it is for all over, and we can’t get away from our tragedy,” said Svanvik, who then explained his brother-in-law Roland Gaudet was one of the workers killed in the accident.
“I think that is what we’re doing here today, coming together as family,” said Svanvik, adding, “I know that we are still recovering and there are different time frames for everybody — We have sadness, we have anger, disbelief. But we know we must carry on, and we can find ways together to carry on.”
Don Demens, President and Chief Executive Officer of Western Forest Products, spoke next.
“Today is a really difficult day as we think back to April 20 last year. We remember those who suffered injuries and those we lost,” said Demens, adding, “Though we can never ease the pain or bring back the ones we lost, we can honour their memories by pledging our resolve to do whatever we can do to keep people safe. This remains my personal commitment to whoever works at Western and anyone we work with.”
Dan Jorgensen from the United Steelworkers Local 1-1937, which represents workers in all sectors of the economy, then addressed the importance of workplace safety.
“Remember that every work safe regulation is written in blood. That means that someone died or was injured on the job in order for that regulation to exist,” said Jorgensen. “Remember, nothing significant happens without unity — today, here and now, we call you to protect the living while we remember the dead.”
The final speaker was faller Steve Venus, who spoke about his personal experience in the forestry industry.
“We say safety is number one, but time and time again all over our industry, the mighty dollar has trumped the safety decision,” said Venus. “Every level of worker needs to work to change the culture. We all need to get better at making safety decisions that are right in front of us — ask yourself, would I allow someone I love to be standing here at this moment doing what I’m about to do.”
Following the ceremony, residents and everyone in attendance were invited to a reception held at the Woss Community Centre where light refreshments were served.
A Workers’ Memorial Day was started in Sudbury, Ontario in 1984, and on April 28, 1985 the Canadian Labour Congress declared it an annual day of remembrance. In 1991 the day officially became a national observance known as the National Day of Mourning. It has since grown to be observed in over 80 countries.