The newly erected plaque on the Bandshell in Barriere reads, “Logging Industry Worker’s Memorial, In memory of those who lost their lives as a result of their work in the forest industry. Forever free in the forest they share. Never forgotten. In gratitude to those who have fought to improve safety conditions for these workers.”
The unveiling ceremony for the memorial took place on the National Day of Mourning, Thursday, Apr. 28, with just under 50 people attending, along with dignitaries and forest industry representatives.
“The Day of Mourning is marked annually as an important day to honour workers who have lost their lives or been injured because of their work,” Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo MP Cathy McLeod told those in attendance.
McLeod commented that because we live in an area of the province where forestry is a major industry, job related deaths and injuries have touched many families over the years including her own.
District of Barriere Mayor Virginia Smith stated, “British Columbia has a rich and vibrant labour history. Yet all too often the experiences of working people and their contributions individually and collectively to the building of this province are overlooked. Without working people, there simply would not be the B.C. we know today.
“It was Lynn and Harley Wright who have been the driving forces behind making this project a reality.”
She noted that the BC Labour Heritage Centre’s Remembering Working People: Plaques Around the Province project coupled with the generosity of local sponsors (Lower North Thompson Community Forest Society, Unites Steel Workers Local 7619, Gilbert Smith Forest Products, Tolko Industries Ltd., District of Barriere, and Kamloops and District Labour Council) has enabled the creation of the plaque.
Harley Wright said, “I just thought it was time for us to recognize those who have lost their lives in the forest industry in the North Thompson, and especially the families who were impacted by these losses.”
He noted that there is plenty of room on the memorial to add the names of workers who lost their lives in the industry if families wish to do so. “We just didn’t want to take on that responsibility of recording the names in case someone was missed. We thought it best if we left it up to the families who have lost loved ones to contact us directly.”
BC Labour Heritage Centre representative Michelle Laurie said, “The Barriere Forestry Memorial plaque is the first to be unveiled in the Remembering Working People series. It is significant to begin with a forestry memorial, since forestry has been an integral part of our working economy since the 1700s. There were five deaths in the B.C. forestry industry in 2015.”
“Our goal for 2016 is to complete 15 similar plaques that demonstrate the contributions of working people to the history of British Columbia,” said Laurie.
“Any day that workers are recognized is a good day,” said Kamloops and District Labour Council president Barb Nederpal, “It is the workers that build our province, and they are its caretakers. Workers with good family supporting jobs like those in the forest industry support a strong local economy, and they provide a good taxation base for excellent public services that everyone can enjoy.
“I grew up in a small community like Barriere. Where everyone knows everyone and by some extension, everyone is connected to the forest industry and each other. I know first hand that this sense of community, that social responsibility that we feel for our neighbours, that dependency on a strong resource industry, that transcends time.
“So when there is a loss of life in an industry so central to a community’s DNA, it impacts every single person. Sadly, far too often, at least 187 times in B.C. last year alone, a worker is killed on the job or dies from occupational disease. This is the 25th anniversary since the Federal Government proclaimed this day the National Day of Mourning. It is as much a day to honour the fallen as it is a call to protect the living.”
Nederpal noted in the last 25 years health and safety regulations and enforcement in the forest industry “has dramatically improved in many ways, and remain terribly archaic in others. But the fact remains we still have a ways to go. There is always room for improvement, lessons we can learn from every incident, innovations that could make the work safer. Always.
“Every single worker has the right to come home from work, alive and well. As president of the Kamloops and District Labour Council, on behalf of the council’s affiliates, and on behalf of all workers in the TNRD region, I want to thank Harley Wright and the Lower North Thompson Community Forest Society for initiating this memorial plaque, thank the District of Barriere, all the donors, and of course the Labour Heritage Society for making Harley’s wish a reality.”