This year's National Day of Mourning for workers who have been killed or injured on the job is hitting close to home for some Manitobans following the killing of a Winnipeg Transit bus driver earlier this year.
Transit employees wore patches, buttons and T-shirts bearing Irvine Jubal Fraser's name and transit operator number at a memorial ceremony outside Winnipeg city hall on Friday morning.
Members of Fraser's family were also in attendance.
"This has been a tough, heartbreaking year for us at the City of Winnipeg, especially for our hard-working transit operators," Mayor Brian Bowman said at the ceremony.
"Today we continue to remember Transit Operator 521, Mr. Irvine Jubal Fraser. His loss in February was a tragedy that affected all of us — council, citizens, the entire public service and especially the Winnipeg Transit community. But nothing … can compare to the sense of loss I know that his loved ones are feeling. Our hearts are with you and our thoughts are with you."
Fraser, 58, was killed on Feb. 14 after arriving at his last stop on Route 170 at the University of Manitoba.
Police have said Fraser had asked the sole passenger remaining on the bus to leave multiple times. A fight broke out and Fraser was stabbed. A 22-year-old man has been charged with second-degree murder.
Bowman said Winnipeg Transit is working on a "complete review of transit safety" that is examining current practices along with ideas to improve safety.
"To Mr. Fraser's loved ones and the whole transit community, I want you to know we know how hard Winnipeg Transit employees work to offer our citizens kind, professional service," he said.
"For us as a council and for me personally, the safety and the security of Winnipeg Transit employees and customers alike is a priority."
Fraser's name has been added to the list of City of Winnipeg employees who have died of work-related causes since 1978. The total number is 83, including Fraser and Jerry Goldenberg.
Goldenberg was exposed to asbestos while working as a summer student with Winnipeg Hydro in the early 1960s. He died in January 2016 following a brief battle with mesothelioma, a type of cancer associated with asbestos exposure, according to his obituary.
"I wish the city had known then what we know now about the terrible environmental hazard of asbestos," Bowman said.
"Thankfully, today the city has a robust asbestos abatement program to protect our workers, including those working at asbestos abatement and removal. This is one small example of the progress we can make when we work together for safer workplaces."
'An immense loss'
Held every year on April 28, the National Day of Mourning commemorates not only those who have been killed or injured in the workplace, but also those who have become ill as a result of their work. The memorial also encourages employers and employees to ensure safe workplaces.
"Unfortunately, last year as a province we lost 24 workers to acute hazards and occupational illnesses," Growth, Enterprise and Trade Minister Cliff Cullen said at Friday morning's service.
"This number represents an immense loss to our families, to our communities, to our workplaces and certainly to our province."
Cullen, Workers Compensation Board of Manitoba chairman Michael Werier and Manitoba Federation of Labour president Kevin Rebeck are joining SAFE Workers of Tomorrow representatives for a walk from the Union Centre to the Legislative Building over the noon hour.