Louis Sebert: Day of Mourning 2016

Thank you to the Northern Territories Federation of Labour for gathering us together for this important ceremony and giving me the opportunity to speak today on behalf of the Government of the Northwest Territories.

Today, on all government buildings across the country, we fly our flags at half-mast. We light our candles in remembrance. We observe a moment of silence and we reflect. Because today, we stand with others in observance of the National Day of Mourning to remember the lives of those we’ve lost to workplace diseases and injuries.

In their most recent annual statistics report, the Association of Workers’ Compensation Boards of Canada recorded 919 workplace deaths across Canada. Of those deaths, 13 were young workers aged 15 to 19 years, and another 25 were young workers between 20 and 24 years old. 919 workplace-related deaths, amounting to over 2 deaths per day. This is a crushing – and unacceptable – fact.

We are here today to honour those we’ve lost in the Northwest Territories in 2015, and to mourn with their loved ones. We are here to remember why ensuring workplace safety and care for workers is so important. To remember why you do what you do, every day, to eliminate workplace diseases and injuries.

This past year, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut together reported three workplace fatalities. One of these was from our home – the Northwest Territories.

Let us stop and take a moment today to remember, and to pay our respects.

Let us remember William Skuce, who worked in Yellowknife.

Let us also remember our fallen friends from Nunavut. Let us remember Michael Levi, from Arctic Bay, and Daniel Qanatsiaq, from Igloolik.

These are not losses we take lightly. These men were husbands. Fathers. Friends. Colleagues.

While we have made improvements in reducing workplace injuries and educating workers and employers on workplace safety, there remains much to be done. We have made great strides, and I applaud all of you for your continued efforts and hard work. However, it continues to be our goal, the goal of everyone in the Northwest Territories, to eliminate workplace diseases and injuries entirely.

We must not forget that all it takes is one accident. One mistake. One oversight. And a life is extinguished forever.

Let us therefore renew our commitment and strengthen our resolve to improving health and safety in the workplace, and pledge again not to rest until we have prevented all deaths, injuries, and diseases from workplaces in the Northwest Territories. Remember, ultimately, that every one of you has a role to play in helping to further this cause.

Thank you.