A flag was flown in memory of killed and injured workers in Canada at Langley City hall today (Tuesday, April 28th).
Normally, there would be a public ceremony, but that was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
To mark the day, City Mayor Val van den Broek, Dan Gray, president of Langley City Professional Firefighters IAFF local 3252 and Andrew Brown, president of CUPE local 2058 released statements.
“This year, while we are unable to gather together to collectively pay tribute to fallen workers in Canada, it is perhaps more important than ever to recognize the sacrifices being made throughout BC and across our country,” Mayor van den Broek said.
“This year, we as a nation mourn the passing of Constable Heidi Stevenson who sacrificed everything to protect her fellow Nova Scotians, too many of whom lost their lives to a terrible tragedy. This year, we empathize with the medical professionals and the first responders who are working tirelessly in the battle against COVID-19, and we grieve for those who have succumbed to the virus. We extend gratitude to the essential service and frontline workers, those who are at higher risk of catching the illness simply by virtue of their work, which is vital in the functioning of our society today. This year, more than ever, we stand together in support of one another.”
READ MORE: Day of Mourning to be held virtually
CUPE local 2058 president Brown described 2020 as “an extraordinarily tough year.”
“There have been too many heartbreaking stories of workers being exposed to and succumbing to the virus while providing the public with the essential services we have come to rely on,” Brown declared.
“This is anyone from the clerks in our grocery stores, bank tellers, cashiers, food service workers to the medical community and first responders working on the front lines.”
Last year, he said, CUPE recorded 11 members lost to workplace-related fatalities.
One, in September, killed Moreno Cerra, a 49-year-old, 17 year employee with the City of Vancouver – Engineering Streets Branch.
“It was difficult to see firsthand the impact Moreno’s passing had on those around him and in the CUPE community as a whole in the days and weeks following his death. I know their local worked hard to provide support to his family and their membership and I hope none of us ever have to go through a devastating event like that. CUPE 2058 would like to express our solidarity, support and our profound gratitude for all workers helping to provide essential services despite the risks to their own health, and that of their families.”
IAFF local 3252 president Gray thanked RCMP Const. Heidi Stevenson “for making the ultimate sacrifice this past week in Nova Scotia.”
“Our thoughts and prayers are with her family and friends, and all the other victims of this horrible tragedy,” Gray said.
“This year, April 28th takes on extra meaning as we honour healthcare workers, grocery employees, and all other essential staff who join us on the frontlines, as they fight to keep citizens safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Last year saw Canada’s first Mental Health Directory to support first responders, which was created by the BC Professional Firefighters Association.
It includes more than 150 specially trained mental health professionals and gives firefighters and other first responders the opportunity to access vetted mental health clinicians who are trained to best serve their unique needs, which stem from the operational stress they’re exposed to on the job.
It was established in response to research showing that first responders are at an increased risk of mental health issues such as depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.
A North America wide study in 2017 showed firefighters experience a 50 pre cent higher rate of marital problems, and a 30 per cent higher rate of death from suicide than the general population. The study also showed there were more deaths from suicide than ‘in-line-of-duty’ deaths among firefighters.
According to the IAFF Line of Duty Death database, 34 Canadian IAFF members have made the ultimate sacrifice in the past 12 months, all of them from recognized occupational diseases and the vast majority from cancers linked directly to our chosen profession.
“Few professions have been as hard hit as ours,” Gray said.