VANCOUVER — The B.C. Federation of Labour is joining its counterparts and unions across Canada to honour workers who have been killed, injured or made ill on the job.
WorkSafeBC, the Business Council of B.C. and politicians including Vancouver's Mayor Gregor Robertson gathered Thursday as the Olympic cauldron was lit on the city's waterfront to mark the annual Day of Mourning.
Similar ceremonies were held in communities around B.C. to pay tribute to workers whose lives have been cut short or altered forever.
WorkSafeBC says 122 workers died last year in B.C., 50 of the deaths were from traumatic injuries, while 72 deaths were caused by occupational disease, mostly from exposure to asbestos decades earlier.
The flag at the B.C. legislature was lowered to half-mast and politicians joined others across the country to observe a moment of silence in support of workers.
Labour Minister Shirley Bond says workplace improvements have been made and everyone must work together to build a culture of safety that makes such tragedies a thing of the past.
The union representing Canada's heat and frost insulators has called on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to ban the use of asbestos, adding exposure to the material remains the leading cause of work-related deaths in the country.
"Asbestos exposure affects everyone, whether it's workers, their family members or other Canadians who come into contact with workers following exposure," says Fred Clare, Eastern Canada vice-president of the International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators and Allied Workers.
Tom Sigurdson, executive director of BC Building Trades, also says the federal government must pass legislation banning the import and use of materials containing asbestos.
"It is unacceptable in this day and age that construction workers are still being exposed to deadly substances like asbestos," he says.
Federal Labour Minister MaryAnn Mihychuk says an average of nearly three workers across Canada die every day in workplace incidents and thousands suffer illness or injury.
"These tragedies remind us that there is still much work to be done in the field of workplace health and safety in Canada," she says.
"They also reaffirm the need for government, employers, unions and employees to work together to ensure all workers return home in good health at the end of the day."
The Canadian Press