The national day of mourning was recognized in Parksville on Thursday, April 28, as people gathered in memory of the 143 people who died on the job last year in B.C.
There are around 900 people a year dying at work across the country, pointed out organizer and CUPE 3570 member Harvey Lalonde.
He said as many as 100,000 people may have died at work in Canada since records have been kept.
Lalonde introduced the issue to the small crowd behind the Parksville Civic and Technology Centre and was followed by several people, including local NDP candidate Zeni Maartman, acting mayor Chris Burger and Jessica Vliegenthart — who brought the impact of workplace safety to a personal level.
Vliegenthart was 21 a few years ago when she was patrolling a back road as a forest firefighter to make money for university during her summer break when the pick-up driven by her supervisor lost control and she was thrown out.
“My life changed in seconds,” she said of the pain that was so intense she thought an axe from the back of the truck had struck her.
She spent eight months in the hospital and rehabilitation with a “long shopping list of complications,” lost two-thirds of her body mass and then had to basically re-learn how to do everything from a wheelchair.
Having been a very athletic person it was a real shock to have to learn how to put pants on again and figure out how to remain active in a wheelchair.
Now one of the stars of the Team Canada wheelchair basketball team, Vliegenthart has put her life back together, but said it was something nobody should have to go through.
“Nobody should die or be hurt because of their job. Workers need to know and exercise their rights,” she said, adding everyone needs the proper training, safety and supervision no matter what they do.