Workers Health & Safety Centre

Ontario legislature pays tribute to WHSC founder, Cliff Pilkey

Much has been said about Workers Health & Safety Centre founder Clifford Pilkey since his death in 2012 at the age of 90.
He has been memorialized by popular media, the Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL), various other labour organizations, and of course the Workers Health & Safety Centre (WHSC). All agreed he was a great man who worked tirelessly to champion the cause of worker and human rights.

Most recently, the Ontario legislature paid tribute to Cliff (pictured here with OFL VP Julie Davis) who served in the legislature from 1967 to 1971 as the New Democratic Party (NDP), Member of Provincial Parliament (MPP) for Oshawa.

Representatives from all three political parties in the legislature rose to honour Cliff, while members of his family looked on from the visitor’s gallery.
In her moving tribute, Jennifer French, NDP MPP representing Oshawa had this to say, “Cliff helped labour win the passage of Bill 70, Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety Act. He knew that workers and workplace representatives would need comprehensive training after the passage of that bill. His strong leadership and advocacy resulted in a workers’ training centre known still as the Workers Health & Safety Centre, which continues to lead on health and safety issues. The WHSC is a living tribute to his dedication to health and safety issues and his commitment to the workers of Ontario.
French added, “Cliff Pilkey was not a man of few words – instead, he was a man of powerful and resonant words. He inspired and taught people to be activists, advocates, leaders and change-makers.  He would say, ‘Don’t lose heart because your life and your efforts are at the embryo stage.  Be strong and stay on course and let it grow and let it blossom. Stay true. Never lose heart.’ Thank you to Cliff’s family, and thank you to Cliff Pilkey for staying the course and making it broader, safer & fairer for everyone after.”

Speaking for the Liberal Party, Chief Government Whip, Jim Bradley remarked, “Cliff brought forward the point of view of labour very forcefully. He was particularly interested, as we are on an ongoing basis, in people who are injured in industrial accidents. He campaigned locally, provincially and nationally for legislation, regulations and policies which would be designed to eliminate the risk, if possible, but certainly to significantly reduce the risk of accidents happening in the workplace. He saw the consequences of those accidents: the lives that were profoundly adversely affected by accidents that happen in the workplace, and sometimes fatalities – of course, that was devastating for the families – but also ongoing injuries which prevented people from leading the kinds of lives they would have liked to have led. He [Cliff] will stand out as an icon and a strong defender of labour throughout his lifetime – as he did – and well beyond the years in which he was on this earth.”

Lorne Coe, Progressive Conservative MPP representing Whitby-Oshawa said, “Cliff [had] a lifetime of advocacy and achievement. In 1962, the Ontario Human Rights Code barred discrimination on the basis of colour, race, creed and national origin, but did not include gender. In 1969, a newly formed UAW Local 222 women’s committee approached their MPP, Cliff Pilkey, convincing him to present a bill outlawing discrimination in employment. A year and a half later, Bill 83, An Act to Prevent Discrimination in Employment because of Sex or Marital Status, passed into law. This was followed by an amendment to the Human Rights Code in Ontario.

“Whatever one’s political beliefs,” Coe added, “we could all learn a lot by studying the character and actions of this vibrant, caring and contributing leader. Thanks to his son and his family for sharing him with us and for the difference that Clifford George Pilkey made in the lives of thousands of people in this province.”

Beyond Queen’s Park, Cliff also served as president of the Ontario Federation of Labour from 1976 until his retirement in 1986. He was president of the WHSC Board from 1985 to 2000 and president emeritus from 2000 to 2009. Prior to his leadership roles at the OFL and WHSC, Cliff served as Local 222 president of the then-United Auto Workers union (UAW), as a UAW National Representative, president of Oshawa & District Labour Council, and City of Oshawa Councillor. He was a recipient of the Order of Ontario and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal.

Read the entire Hansard transcript of the legislature’s tribute  (Scroll down past “Orders of the Day”.)

Read the Ontario Federation of Labour memorial to Cliff

Read the WHSC’s memorial of our founder

Read The Globe and Mail obituary in tribute to Cliff

To learn more about WHSC:
Call: 1-888-869-7950 and ask to speak to a training services representative.