Remembering those who died at work

Image of "The Golden Tree" used with permission of artist Dean Lauzé who created it in memory of three farm workers who died in Abbotsford.

Image of “The Golden Tree” used with permission of artist Dean Lauzé who created it in memory of three farm workers who died in Abbotsford.

One hundred and forty-two people died from workplace injury and illness in 2011 in BC.

They will be remembered – along with far too many others – at the Day of Mourning on April 27 and 28. The ceremony taking place at the new Vancouver Convention Centre on April 27 at 10:30 a.m. will also be available via the WorkSafeBC website.

To honour the memory of fallen workers, you can wear and display Day of Mourning decals and posters, which can be ordered from WorkSafeBC (ideally by April 20).

Sharing memories in a public way shows respect for those who died, and hopefully reminds us what to avoid at all costs.

New memorial for three women who died in van crash

“The Golden Tree” is a new public art piece that will commemorate the lives of three women – Amarjit Kaur Bal, Sarabjit Kaur Sidhu, and Sukhwinder Kaur Punia – who died on March 7, 2007 in an overcrowded van that crashed into a median on Highway 1. Fourteen other women – also farm workers – were injured.

The memorial, designed by artist Dean Lauzé, will stand in Mill Lake Park and will “acknowledge the contributions of farmworkers and celebrate Abbotsford’s agricultural industry,” reads a story in The Abbotsford Times.

“The art piece is a tree worked in gold leaf with its trunk twisting in three female forms to symbolize the women who died,” reads the story.

What happened?

WorkSafeBC investigated this tragic incident and here is a summary of how overcrowding caused the vehicle to roll. Other contributing factors include improperly inflated tires, an untrained driver, and poor road conditions.

Image from WorkSafeBC incident report 2007

Image from WorkSafeBC incident report 2007

“If proper seat belts had been provided, and workers had worn them, the number of fatalities and the severity of the workers’ injuries might have been reduced,” reads the WorkSafeBC report.

The women in Abbotsford aren’t the only group of migrant workers to die in passenger van crashes in Canada, according to this CBC story about a different tragic van crash that killed 11 people and seriously injured three others – mostly migrants from Peru – in Ontario on February 6.  The story also outlines a number of other van crashes that killed or injured migrant workers.

On the Day of Mourning, I’ll be remembering these farm workers who died so tragically – crammed into unsafe vehicles and herded off to make profit for employers who put profit above human life. My thoughts will be with their loved ones, especially their kids who will grow up without moms.

This WorkSafeBC video is an animated recreation of the crash in Abbotsford.


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