Celebration sat side-by-side with mourning on this year’s Day of Mourning – AFL

Labour activists and leaders enthusiastically welcomed the Alberta government’s new plan to consider holding some employers criminally responsible for workplace fatalities

Edmonton – Hundreds of worker delegates attending the Alberta Federation of Labour’s convention in Edmonton erupted in applause, tempered by some tears, after news was announced that the Alberta government has made a commitment to more aggressively pursue employers and managers under the Criminal Code if their negligence leads to the injury or death of employees.

“We’ve been saying for years that sometimes fines aren’t enough,” said AFL president Gil McGowan. “If we really want to make sure workplace safety gets the kind of priority it deserves, employers and managers have to know they could go to jail if their decisions or negligence result in serious injuries or fatalities. The prospect of real, personal consequences will ensure that employers don’t treat the health and safety of their workers lightly.”

Every year on April 28 we remember the thousands of workers who have been killed, injured or suffered illness as a result of work-related incidents, and we re-commit to working towards ending workplace deaths and injuries. This year, the focus of the Day of Mourning across Canada is on enforcing the Westray Law.

“Today we remember all workers who have been injured or killed on the job, including the 26 men who needlessly lost their lives a quarter century ago in the Westray mine disaster,” said Gil McGowan, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour, “and we honor the many families and friends who have been deeply affected by these tragedies.”

Next month will mark the 25th Anniversary of the Westray mine disaster which sparked a decade-long campaign by unions to change the law. In 2004 the Government of Canada changed the criminal code so that employers who endanger the health and safety of workers would face criminal penalties.

Unfortunately, until today’s announcement of a memorandum of understanding, that law hasn’t been properly enforced in Alberta. By bringing together the crown prosecutor, occupational health and safety investigators, and the largest police forces operating in the province, the Government of Alberta is putting in place a system that will ensure all serious workplace incidents are viewed and investigated through a criminal lens.

“The Government of Alberta’s leadership today in announcing a new memorandum of understanding is an important step forward in ensuring that we properly enforce our laws and that every worker will return home safe at the end of each work day,” said McGowan. “While not every workplace fatality is caused by employer negligence, now those who are negligent in protecting their employee’s safety will finally face real consequences.”

In Canada, roughly 1,000 workers die every year because of something that happened to them at work, and thousands more are seriously injured. By working together, we can prevent worker injuries and deaths before they occur.

Delegates attending the AFL Convention will take part in a Day of Mourning event at Borden Park Amphitheatre (Borden Park Road & 75 Street) at 12:15 p.m. today.

Media Contact:

Chris Gallaway

Director of Government Relations, Alberta Federation of Labour

587-984-7569 or