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Mourn for the dead, fight for the living

By Alexander Delorme, Communications Staff

May 11, 2023

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AUPE hosted its annual Day of Mourning Ceremony on April 28. Read OH&S committee chair Bonnie Gostola’s reflections on the ceremony and this year’s Rolyn Sumlak Award recipients. 

It is a ceremony held every year, because every year we lose too many. 

April 28th is the International Day of Mourning, a day to honour and remember workers killed, injured, and made sick at work. 161 Albertans did not make it home from work in 2022, one of the worst years for workplace-related deaths in our province’s history. 

“Everyone deserves to return home from work safely,” says Bonnie Gostola, AUPE vice-president and chair of the union’s Occupational Health and Safety committee. “Work should not and does not have to be this dangerous. We cannot settle for the status quo. We must fight for the health and safety of all our fellow workers.” 

AUPE’s 2023 Day of Mourning Ceremony began with an Honour Guard Entrance followed by remarks from AUPE President Guy Smith and Vice-President Gostola. We also heard from Legacy Place Society’s Executive Director, Diana Festejo, and AUPE Local 071/013 member, Mario Tellez. OH&S committee member Paulette Harrison of Local 052 read the poem Someone, written to honour Rolyn Sumlak. 

Rolyn was a Local 012 member who was killed on the job in 1990 while working for the Government of Alberta. Now, every year, AUPE activists receive the Rolyn Sumlak Award in recognition of their commitment to occupational health and safety. 

Three AUPE members received the Rolyn Sumlak award this year: Juanita Cozicar of Local 056, Wally Howe of Local 095, and Brenda Lussier of Local 043. 

“I am very proud of these members and their activism,” says Gostola. “The Rolyn Sumlak award is not something you ‘win.’ It is an award you earn through dedication and perseverance, through fighting for improved health and safety in the workplace.” 

AUPE’s Day of Mourning included more than the ceremony this year. The Occupational Health and Safety committee also organized a full day of educational presentations on issues, such as supporting others through grief, stress management, and being an effective OH&S advocate. 

“Creating safe workplaces requires a lot of knowledge and hard work,” says Gostola. “We must put in the effort not only for ourselves, but for the next generation of workplace activists. We have the power to save lives, and it is our responsibility to act.” 

Watch the playback of the Ceremony on our YouTube channel:

April 2023 DI - DOM 1
AUPE Occupational Health and Safety Committee with Darlene Sumlak
April 2023 DI - DOM 2
2023 Rolyn Sumlak Awards

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