April 28 as a Day of Mourning started in Canada in 1984. This is a day set aside each year to remember those who have been killed, seriously injured of fallen ill due to the workplace. Internationally, it began in 1989 as an international day of remembrance and known as Workers’ Memorial Day. The Canadian Parliament passed an Act respecting a National Day of Mourning in 1991. At the beginning of each CMAW (Construction Maintenance and Allied Workers) Executive Board meeting we have a moment of silence in recognition for all those workers.
April 28 was chosen as it is the anniversary of the first comprehensive Workers’ Compensation Act in Canada which was passed in the Ontario Legislature on that day in 1914. The Act was based on a historic compromise that saw workers reluctantly give up their right to sue in return for employers to fund the no-fault system that would provide more speedy and secure payments for as long as the disability lasted.
This passing of the legislation was the result of Justice William Meredith tabling a draft of the Workmen’s Compensation Act as a report to the Ontario Legislature in 1913. The report was based on five principles: no-fault compensation (regardless of how the injury occurred), security of benefits (funds guaranteed to pay workers), collective liability (a shared common fund), independent administration (separate from government) and exclusive jurisdiction (only workers’ compensation organizations can provide the insurance). Prior to this, legislation required workers to sue their employers and prove negligence in court in order to be compensated for their injuries. These foundational Meredith Principles were adopted in similar legislation in all Canadian jurisdictions as Workers’ Compensation Boards (WCB’s).