Mr. Speaker, I would like to talk about the importance of April 28, which has been declared a National Day of Mourning. Each year, on that day, we remember the workers who have been killed or injured on the job or who suffer from occupational diseases.
Last year, I was among the families and co-workers honouring the people who had died as a result of workplace accidents. We gathered on that day of mourning to remember. One event particularly touched me and made me more aware of the importance of such a day. As I was giving my speech, I saw, in the crowd in front of me, a woman tenderly holding a photograph. When I finished speaking, I felt the need to go over and talk to her. After a short, emotional conversation, the woman handed me the photograph she was holding. It was a photograph of her son, a young man barely 20 years old, who had died in his workplace. I saw the enduring pain in the woman's eyes. It is impossible not to be affected by this sort of encounter. That woman gave me a better understanding of the impact an accidental death has on the victim's family and workplace.
A safe and healthy workplace is a productive workplace that benefits the workers, the employers and the economy. As Minister of Labour, I often talk about healthy workplaces that are free of racism, sexual harassment and psychological harassment. When a workplace is safe and healthy, society benefits: employees are happier and, consequently, more productive. The employer also benefits, and our economy and the workplace are better off.
I believe that the National Day of Mourning is a day for remembrance. It gives us an opportunity to express our condolences and sympathy for the victims, their families, their friends and their co-workers, and to remember that we still have a lot of work to do on workplace health and safety.
I have some statistics. In 2005, 1,097 Canadians died of work-related causes and another 337,930 work-related injuries and illnesses were reported. On January 25, I met with the ministers of labour from the provinces and territories in Fredericton to look at this issue, particularly how it relates to young people who have work accidents, and in some cases fatal ones. We noticed that more young people are having these types of accidents because they are receiving a little less training. There is perhaps also a little less awareness. The ministers of labour committed to promoting this issue and ensuring that it is talked about in schools, so that young people are aware of the importance of what they do, and so they realize that health and safety is important to them, to their colleagues, to their families, and to everyone.
I believe that the best way to honour the memory of those who have lost their lives is to work together to improve health and safety in all workplaces, thereby reducing injury, illness and death in Canada.
I would also like to take this one step further. Who is responsible for workplace safety? The minister brings in legislation, of course. We are doing everything we can to eliminate such incidents in the workplace. Of course, employers and union leaders are also responsible for workplace safety, but there is more to it than that. Every one of us is responsible for safety every day. At home or at work, when we see something dangerous, we must stop and take action. We must not pass it by and tell ourselves that it is not serious and that someone else will take care of it. No. Each one of us is responsible for informing the person in charge that something dangerous is happening.
In our society, both groups and individuals are responsible for taking action.
I would like to give one of my favourite examples about safety in the home. Almost everyone has climbed up on a chair to change a light bulb with no thought to the consequences of a fall. What would be the consequences for our wives, our children, and ourselves? What if we had to take time off work? We must be aware of the risks every day and take personal responsibility in our everyday lives.
On this day of reflection and commemoration, I would like to invite you to join me in working to promote safe and healthy workplaces.