CUPE local 2093 representative Mike Poirier raises his fist as a salute to fallen workers. Phil McLachlan/The Free Press CUPE local 2093 representative Mike Poirier raises his fist as a salute to fallen workers. (Phil McLachlan/The Free Press)

On Day of Mourning, Fernie remembers victims of ammonia leak tragedy

“We can never forget the men we lost,” said Fernie Mayor Mary Giuliano

This year’s Day of Mourning holds a special meaning to the Fernie community, less than a year after a fatal ammonia leak rocked the small B.C. town.

On Friday, city council and staff stood in silence outside City Hall – a similar kind of ceremony that will be held across 40 communities in the province Saturday, to remember workers who have been killed, injured or disabled while on the job.

This year, the ceremony was particularly profound, after city workers Wayne Hornquist, Lloyd Smith and contractor Jason Podloski lost their lives in the tragic incident at Fernie Memorial Arena last October.

“Everyone standing here remembers last October 17,” said Fernie Mayor Mary Giuliano. “We rallied together, we stayed strong, and we can’t ever forget.”

She said that as hard as last year was, Fernie wasn’t alone. Last year, 155 workers died from a workplace injury or disease in B.C. alone.

“That’s what the National Day of Mourning is for. To honour those we lost,” she said. “But also, to redouble our efforts to creating safe, healthy workplaces. We all deserve to feel safe at work. And our families deserve to know we’re coming home to them.”

Canadian Union of Public Employees local 2093 representative Mike Poirier echoed Mayor Giuliano’s comments, adding that it’s important to come together and honour those who have lost their lives on the job. He said that most present have likely been affected by a workplace injury.

He said that a sad fact is that injuries still happen and added that last year, alongside the 155 deaths reported, there were 149,554 injuries.

“Whether we’re doing a better job at reporting, or they’re just happening, that’s a pretty high number,” said Poirier.

“Just like the people who were close to us, these people were important to their communities too. They were parents, husbands, wives, brothers and sisters, friends, coworkers, team members, coaches and neighbours.”

Poirier said this is why it is important to come together and remember the fallen workers.

“They are a part of us, and their loss affected all of us.”

He said that this important ceremony is also an opportunity for them to support each other through this loss, and remember their commitment to creating safer workplaces for everyone. Through positive collaboration, he hopes everyone can work together to make their job sites safer.

“Let’s honour our fallen workers by making a new legacy for them,” said Poirier. “One that’s about more than just what we’ve lost, but one that’s about how they’ve inspired us to make things better, so that everyone comes home safe.”

Poirier then raised his fist in the air, which everyone followed, as a salute to those fallen.

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