Across Canada and in numerous countries around the globe, people recently gathered and marked an extremely important day in the lives of working people everywhere. April 28th, the International Day of Mourning, an occasion where people grieve for the departed and struggle on for those who live with the loss of limb and livelihood through the debilitating effects of industrial accidents and diseases.
In Snow Lake the day was marked by a gathering of 20 or so people in front of the Snow Lake Miners' Memorial. Most of these same people gather each April 28 to ensure that workplace deaths, and those affected by injuries and disease are not forgotten.
Many attendees see the International Day of Mourning as their chance to remember lost and injured co-workers, friends, and family. Additionally, those within the labour movement recognize it as a day on which they can renew their commitment to fighting for safer workplaces, and in the process, ensuring no further workers have to make the ultimate sacrifice. Sadly, even though unions and their membership from across the country revere the day and what it symbolizes, only three, USW, IAM, and CUPE, were represented at Snow Lake's service.
The small, serious ceremony began with an overview of the observance by USW Local 7106 vice-president Kevin Allen wherein he relayed the purpose of the day and his belief of why people gather, touching on several sad statistics from his hometown of Flin Flon.
Following Allen, Snow Lake Mayor Clarence Fisher addressed the gathering. He recognized the day and what it stood for, acknowledging the sense of loss and effect workplace tragedies can engender on families.
Subsequent to Fisher's address, Phyllis Verbeek spoke to the gathering, noting that it had been 20 years since the loss of her husband Clarence Funk in a workplace accident at the Chisel Open Pit. She touched all in attendance with her heartfelt thoughts and remembrances in respect to that tragic event.
Once the addresses had concluded, the laying of the wreaths took place. Pamela and Ara Stoupe placed the first wreath in memory of their beloved father and grandfather, Bruce Brew. Pam also placed a wreath on behalf of CUPE Local 8600. Jackie Brew of the Snow Lake Health Auxiliary then placed a wreath in memory of fallen and injured community members. USW Local 7106's Joyce Delronde-Cable laid their wreath in memory of fallen and injured brothers and sisters. Chris Ross representing IAM Local 1848 also laid a wreath in memory of fallen and injured brothers and sisters. Sharon Stubbs of the Snow Lake Legion laid a wreath in memory of fallen and injured Snow Lakers and Fisher placed the final wreath in memory of fallen and injured Snow Lake citizens.
When the laying of the wreaths had concluded, Leone Jackson read a poem titled "Incident at Stall" penned by former Snow Laker Randall Hans Crone. The poem was written for the Day of Mourning and was dedicated to William Denby, Thomas Campbell, and Bob Tandy.
It reads: The captain climbed up to the top of the raise, Entered the sub-drift and peered through the haze, With legs a bit shaky, his breath running rough, Sat on the muck pile, collapsed with a huff.
The shifter behind him cleared manway of sprags, Rushed to his partner but stumbled and gagged,
Fell on his knees to the cold rocky ground, Gasped in his death, uttered no sound.
The miner who followed, gaped in surprise, The horror of tragedy assailed helpless eyes, He backed down the ladder, fought with despair, Found nearest valve and cranked on the air.
An element was absent, burned up in the blast, Humans without it, mere moments they last, Oxygen, sweet oxygen, your praise must be said, Lack of your presence left two good men dead.
It never seems just and it never is right, That mining men die in their prime, at their height, Just doing their jobs in order to feed, The families they love; cherish and need.
Remember this day as we mourn for the dead, The loved ones we've lost, the prayers that we've said,
We pause in remembrance, in grief we reflect, We offer our love, our loss, and respect.
Subsequent to this poem, Stubbs read the names of each worker who lost their life in the local mines since 1936, as Leone Jackson tolled the bell for each of them.
After a moment's silence, attendees were invited for refreshments and fellowship at a Town of Snow Lake and USW Local 7106 sponsored reception in the Lawrie Marsh Hall.