National Day of Mourning (Canadian observance)

The National Day of Mourning, or Workers’ Mourning Day is observed in Canada on 28 April. It commemorates workers who have been killed, injured or suffered illness due to workplace related hazards and occupational exposures.

National Day of Mourning
Observed byCanada
Celebrationsflag at half-mast, Moment of silence, lighting candles, donning ribbons and black armbands
Date28th day of April
Related toLabor Day; Workers' Memorial Day

Workers' Memorial Day was started when two labour activists, Colin Lambert and Dr. Ray Sentes, were driving in early April 1983 to a union meeting, and were stopped by a funeral procession for a firefighter that had been killed in the line of duty.[1] They worried that other workers who died because of work did not receive similar honours, and recalled how members of the United Steelworkers in Elliott Lake held each year a "Workers' Remembrance Day" for uranium miners who had succumbed to exposures. Lambert and Sentes sought endorsements from union officials for the idea to hold a national day of mourning, and the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) passed a resolution to that effect at its annual convention in 1983, and the Canadian Labour Congress followed suit at its annual convention the following year. The AFL-CIO declared a day of mourning in 1989 and a "workers' Memorial Day" is observed in over 100 countries.

In December 1990, this day became a national observance in Canada with the passing of the Workers Mourning Day Act, so that on April 28, 1991, it was officially the National Day of Mourning for persons killed or injured in the workplace; making April 28, an official Workers’ Mourning Day.[2][3]

Injuries and deaths in the workplace continue to be a matter of important concern across Canada. Many Canadians members work hard each day in an effort to minimize accidents and incidents. Risk is an inherent element of many jobs, and this is why safety should be one of the core values in any workplace. Since its inception, the observance has spread to over 80 countries around the world, but is known is most other countries as the Workers' Memorial Day. The date 28 April was picked because on that day in 1914, the Workers Compensation Act received its third reading. In 2001 the International Labour Organization first observed World Day for Safety and Health at Work on this day. Commemorating those who have been hurt or killed in the workplace shows respect for the fallen, while serving as a reminder of the importance of occupational health and safety.

The Canadian flag is flown at half-mast from sunrise to sunset on all federal government buildings, including on Parliament Hill. Workers and employees observe this day in various ways including lighting candles, donning ribbons and black armbands, and observing a moment of silence at 1100 hrs. The purpose of Day of Mourning is twofold- to remember and honour those lives lost or injured and to renew the commitment to improving health and safety in the workplace - to prevent further deaths, injuries and diseases from work.

Young Workers

Young workers aged from 15-24 are more likely than any other group to be injured on the job, in fact 1/3 of all injuries occur in this age group, and males are twice as likely to be injured as female workers.[4] The highest rate of injury happens in construction and hospitality industries. These rates have led to specific laws in many provinces that provide for additional and special training for young and new workers.[5] Due to these statistics, there has been renewed push to use this holiday to educate young workers of their rights in schools.[6]

Canadian monuments

Major monuments in Canada have been erected and dedicated to workers whose lives have been who have been killed and injured on the job.[7]

The BC Labour Heritage Centre maintains an interactive map recording all monuments and plaques dedicated to working class people in British Columbia, over fifty sites of which are Day of Mourning specific.

International monuments

Monuments around the world have been erected and dedicated to workers whose lives have been who have been killed and injured on the job.[10]

  • Hoover Dam Monument, Boulder City, Nevada, USA
  • Airplane and Fishermen Monument, Hedinsfjordur, Iceland
  • Workers Memorial Day Stained Glass Window, Birmingham, England
  • Deceased Workers Memorial Forest [Adelaide South Australia]
  • National Deceased Workers Memorial (Workers Glade) [Canberra Australia]
  • The Workers Memorial [St Helens, England]

See also


  1. BC Labour Heritage Centre (2017-04-20), Day of Mourning The Untold Story (2017), retrieved 2018-05-09
  2. Greater Manchester Hazards Centre Fact Sheet 28 April 2006 (GMHC is part of the Hazards Campaign recognised and affiliated to the UK Trades Union Congress) Author Hilda Palmer, (no ISBN); available at "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2006-05-18. Retrieved 2010-03-28.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) Also 'Safety Express' March/ April 2006 Page 5 'April 28th is...Workers' Memorial Day' (no ISBN); published by The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (ROSPA) UK registered charity No. 207823
  3. TUC Certificate in Occupational Health & Safety course notes 2004/5 Section C page 69 (no ISBN); more info available at "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2010-02-17. Retrieved 2010-03-24.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  4. WorkSafeBC Young Workers Rights and Facts,
  5. WorkSafeBC Young Workers Resource and Fact Page,
  6. Day of Mourning, BC Schools Project,
  7. Template:Ccohs.
  8. Template:Date=2015 04 27.
  9. Template:Date=2015 04 27.
  10. Template:Ccohs.
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