Canadian LifeQuilt to be dedicated this spring
Do you remember picking up your first car?
Thrilling wasn’t it? Felice D’Ascanio, 19, had planned to do just that on September 23, 1998 after finishing work, but he never made it. Just his third day on the job, Felice was killed after being struck in the head by a wooden platform used to move crates.
To his 16-year-old sister, Sheena, Eric Helgeson, was a role model, confidant, protector and best friend. For 8-year-old younger brother, Brock, his big brother was simply his hero. Eric Helgeson, 20, was the kind of person everyone got along with, someone you could count on. He was killed while constructing a metal building when a crane tipped over and took down the building he was working on.
The D’Ascanio and Helgeson families are joined by others all sharing heart-rending stories about the workplace fatalities that claimed the lives of their beloved children. Many more have come forward to report serious life-altering injuries.
Each of these life stories is woven into the fabric and community that has become the LifeQuilt
, a unique and permanent national memorial to young workers aged 15 to 24 injured and killed on the job every year. More than two years ago the quilt’s designer, Laurie Swim, and the project’s coordinating committee set out to gather the names, stories and images of 100 young workers killed on the job. Their silkscreened images are captured as fabric commemoratives.
Recently, the project reached their goal by obtaining the one-hundredth name of a young worker killed on the job. Courtney Riley, 17, was killed in a car accident while finishing her final day of work with the Young Environmentalist Program for the province of Prince Edward Island. With this last addition the project became indeed national in scope. Names and stories have now been gathered from each Canadian province and territory. This difficult task was given a boost earlier this year as workers’ compensation boards across Canada agreed to assign staff to contact families of deceased young workers.
Fundraising however is still shy of its final target. To date, approximately $120,000 has been raised thanks in large part to the phenomenal support of the Canadian labour movement through central labour bodies, national and local unions, regional labour councils and individual activists. Some have even convinced their employer to make a contribution.
To meet its financial obligations the project still needs to raise approximately $60,000. Individuals have and can continue to make a difference too. Those donating a minimum of $20 will be recognized with a handsome LifeQuilt
pin. Along with each $20 donation, an organza ribbon bearing the name of a seriously injured young worker will be sewn onto the quilt.
Regardless, the Workers Health and Safety Centre will host a special dedication ceremony for the LifeQuilt
in Toronto on May 1st
, International Workers’ Day.
Dave Killham, Workers Centre executive director says, “We have proudly supported the LifeQuilt
project from day one because we understood its power to reach people. In a short time it’s become a solemn touchstone not unlike Day of Mourning monuments in our communities. The suffering experienced by the youngest and perhaps most vulnerable members of our workforce should be a personal affront to all of us.
“As health and safety activists, as parents, as persons connected to one another we will continue our efforts to ensure our young people come safely home to us at the end of their work day and that they are able to experience all the joy that a full life holds.”
Killham adds the LifeQuilt
will be a lasting reminder of the absolute necessity for this work. Moreover, it will remain a symbol of what can be achieved when a community of concern comes together.