Skip to content
Sponsored Content

Mine Mill and Smelter Workers' Memorial Day is June 20: Here's what you should know

Virtual gathering on Sunday, June 20th at 9:30 am
ca 6

In June 1984, a tragic accident occurred. A seismic event struck northeastern Ontario, resulting in an utterly devastating collapse at Falconbridge Mine.

Four miners, members of Mine Mill Local 598, lost their lives. Sulo Korpela, Richard Chenier and Daniel Lavallee were killed instantly; Wayne St. Michel remained trapped below the surface. 

Rescue workers worked diligently trying to save St. Michel, digging through the rock with their bare hands. They established voice contact with the miner, but he died minutes before he could be freed.

The following year, the first Workers’ Memorial Day was held, to honour the four men lost in this terrible tragedy. This June 20th marks the 37th anniversary.

“The memorial has since evolved and now honours all fallen, sick and injured workers, with a focus on a future that is free from these types of events. We strive for a day when no one ever becomes sick or injured in the workplace,” says Eric Boulay, President, Mine, Mill & Smelter Workers’ Union, Local 598 UNIFOR.

Melissa Wood works at St. Gabriel’s Villa, where she is the Unit Chair and the Co-Chair of Health and Safety. She is also Vice President of Local 598. She wishes an annual event like this wasn’t necessary, that we would learn from history, that by now we would be doing more to make health and safety a priority in the workplace. 

“These days are to remember the past and to remember why people had sacrificed so much in order for us to have what we have today,” she says.

Wood works in the healthcare environment, is a health and safety rep in her workplace and is always advocating for healthcare workers’ rights. It’s an industry where they face many challenges and are always trying to recruit new people.

“The reason people are leaving the field is because of health and safety. It’s the repetitive strain injuries, people hurting their backs trying to assist elderly individuals who are heavier,” she explains. “You won’t have people in health care necessarily losing their lives, though there have been some, but there probably isn’t a worker out there that doesn’t have an injury report to share at some point in their career.”

Health and safety committees really need to focus on listening to the workers and looking at what’s happening in the environment around them, she suggests. New forms of technology that people can use in the workforce are also badly needed; too often old, outdated equipment is used, which hurts both workers and patients. 

“If people have been at a certain workplace and they find it too hazardous, they do their time, they try to point out health and safety concerns, and then they just move on to another workplace and hope that it’s better than the last one,” says Wood. “I think that’s true for most people in most industries out there.”

Wood’s advice? Use your voice. All we have in the workplace is our voice and if everyone isn’t using their voices together, issues will never get resolved. 

“Be a force with your voice and say no to unsafe work.”

The 37th annual Mine Mill and Smelter Workers’ Memorial Day takes place Sunday, June 20, 2021 at 9:30 am. For more information, visit