National Day of Mourning

The National Day of Mourning is a day to remember and honour those lives lost or injured due to a workplace tragedy. It’s also a day to collectively renew our commitment to improving health and safety in the workplace and to preventing further injuries, illnesses, and deaths.

Traditionally on April 28, the Canadian flag flies at half-mast on Parliament Hill and on all federal government buildings. Employers and workers observe the Day of Mourning in a variety of ways. Some light candles, lay wreaths, wear commemorative pins, ribbons, or black armbands, and pause for a moment of silence.

We encourage organizations, employees, communities, and individuals to hold or support an event.

Employers and individuals can also show their support and commitment to a safe workplace by putting up posters available for download here. By sharing these messages, you remind more people to put health and safety at the forefront of their work and help to prevent further work-related injuries and loss of life.

Ottawa observance:
April 28, 2024, at 12:30 PM – 1:30 PM
Vincent Massey Park – Canadian Labour Congress Monument, 701 Heron road – Ottawa, Ontario.
This monument was dedicated on April 28, 1987, one year after the Canadian Labour Congress had officially established April 28 as the Day of Mourning to workers killed and injured on the job.

About the Day of Mourning

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.

Workers’ Memorial Day was started when two labour activists, Colin Lambert and Ray Sentes, were driving in early April 1983 to a union meeting, and were stopped by a funeral procession for a firefighter who had been killed in the line of duty.

They worried that other workers who died because of work did not receive similar honours, and recalled how members of the United Steelworkers in Elliot 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. 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 to 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. 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. Due to these statistics, there has been renewed push to use this holiday to educate young workers of their rights in schools.

Gilles Lavigne
Chair, Health and Safety Committee PSAC-NCR