2005 WHSC Volunteer Activist Recognition Campaign
Working people have long been the foundation upon which workplaces and communities grow and prosper. But they, along with their families and others in the community, have suffered along the way — fortunately, not in silence.
The voices heard most often are those of volunteer health, safety and environmental activists. In their workplaces and communities, these activists speak out about harmful working conditions and toxic emissions from industry and other sources which assault the health of workers, their families and their communities. Equally important though, activists continue to demand change.
Many of these demands have translated into important workplace and legislative interventions. One such example began 14 years ago in Pictou County, Nova Scotia where a predictable and preventable explosion at the Westray mine killed 26 miners. Led by the United Steelworkers Union, volunteer health, safety and environmental activists joined with family members and friends of the dead miners calling on the federal government to amend the Criminal Code of Canada so negligent corporate executives and corporations can be held criminally accountable for unsafe workplaces. After more than 10 years of persistent lobbying, the Westray Bill received Royal Ascent on November 7, 2003.
Today, volunteer activists continue to demand government regulatory protection to address issues ranging from workplace violence and stress to epidemics of cancer and musculoskeletal injuries. In their workplaces they are also demanding specific solutions from employers designed to prevent exposure to harmful toxins and other occupational hazards.
This fall, the Workers Centre paused to recognize and celebrate the continued vigilance, dedication and accomplishments of volunteer activists.
“Though we don’t yet work in hazard-free workplaces, they are safer because of the efforts and leadership of these activists,” says Dave Killham, executive director, Workers Health and Safety Centre. “Neither do we live in hazard-free communities, but they are healthier because of their resolve. On the whole we are building the better world Tommy Douglas, the first leader of Canada’s New Democratic Party, and many others hoped we’d pursue. Building a better world though is a journey not a destination. On this journey, the Workers Centre remains equally and proudly dedicated to providing training and information tools which support the efforts of volunteer activists.”
In this publication we will meet seven of these individuals. You will learn how each has worked for change, overcome hurdles and achieved positive outcomes aimed at safeguarding worker and community health.
Thousands of other volunteer activists were again recognized at appreciation events in more than 40 Ontario communities hosted by local labour councils and supported by the Workers Centre. All activists were invited to attend an event in their community and were encouraged to bring co-workers, family members and friends. At each event, local labour councils paid special recognition to a single volunteer activist who has exhibited an extraordinary commitment towards safeguarding our workplaces and communities.
Those attending these events also received a newly developed 2006 activist planning calendar and resource journal. “It was offered as a small token of recognition to activists for their work over the past year,” says Killham. “It is also designed to help inspire continued efforts. Occupational and environmental hazards will not be wished away. But they can be worked
away. Together, we can build a better world in which to work and live.”