Day of Mourning honours workers who died on the job

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Day of Mourning honours workers who died on the job

Silver Kuris remembers sitting on her dad's lap while he watched his hunting programs on TV. She remembers thumbing through a catalogue, hounding him to buy her a doll she'd been eyeing for weeks. 

Those memories of being with her dad seem so precious now, Silver explains. In January 2011, just months before Silver's eighth birthday, Sam Kuris died at work in a forklift accident when the family was living in Maple Ridge, B.C.

Silver and her mom, Shelly, shared their tragic story at this year's Day of Mourning ceremony held at St. Augustine church Friday in front of more than 100 supporters and labour advocates. Everyone in the church wanted one thing — to improve workplace safety.

Shelly and her family still celebrate Sam's birthday and every year, they honour him — and the many others who have died at work — on the Day of Mourning.

"That's a special day for us," said Shelly, who has lived in Wheatley for more than a year. "We wanted to attend in his home town."

In the months that followed Sam's death, the family learned how he and another worker were using two forklifts in tandem to move a large piece of equipment.

"The load shifted and when it shifted, Sam's forklift spun," Shelly said. "After it stopped spinning it tipped and when it tipped, it landed on him."

Others shared their personal stories during the ceremony Friday, which illustrated the importance of improving workplaces across the country, according to Lisa Bastien of the Canadian Labour Congress. 

More than 1,000 people are killed on the job every year, she explained during her presentation at the church. She and other labour advocates said they will continue to push to improve safety for workers.

"When criminal negligence result in a worker's death, it is a crime, not an accident," Bastien said.

Five elected NDP representatives attended the Day of Mourning ceremony Friday, including Cheryl Hardcastle, the MP for Windsor-Tecumseh, who spoke about improving workplace safety.

"We, as legislators, know we have a responsibility to work toward preventing future accidents, illness or fatalities," she said. "Too many workers are hurt, maimed or become ill because of their jobs. Some pay the ultimate price and never return home." 

Silver, who is now 13, read a poem she wrote a couple of years ago entitled My Daddy. She describes a world she'd like to create, "a place where no one could ever get hurt."

The words moved Windsor-Tecumseh MPP Percy Hatfield, who asked for a copy of the poem so he could hand deliver it to Ontario's Minister of Labour Kevin Flynn. 

Silver also told the story of a gift that arrived to the family home on her eighth birthday. She opened the box to find the doll she'd been eyeing before the family tragedy struck.

With the doll, a hand-written note from her dad.