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Bentall Centre Memorial Service

Janice Hanna’s story continued:

My own reason for attending was personal. One of the victims, Brian Stevenson, was a childhood friend. We attended school together from kindergarten to graduation in 1977. We were a very close group of friends, many of which remain my friends to the current date. I wanted Brian’s family to know that he has never been forgotten by his school friends. They shared with me how nice it was to know that at each graduation reunion a toast is still held for Brian. He was a very good fellow as the old saying goes, and although gone for a long time now, he has certainly not been forgotten by the people who were lucky enough to know him while he was alive.

I also had the pleasure of enjoying his company in Hawaii while we were both there in November 1980. We ran into each other on a beach in Oahu, I was travelling with my sister and Brian with an old friend. Our respective fiancés were not with us on the trip. Brian, always the kind protector, suggested we go out in the evening as a group as he thought it would be safer for my sister and me.  We enjoyed exploring the nightlife of Honolulu together for the remainder of our stay. I look back on that experience as a very treasured memory. Sadly, less than 2 months after our return, he was killed.

Speakers at this year’s memorial include the BC Minister of Labour, the BC Federation of Labour, WCB, BC Building Trades Executive Director and at times a family member of one of the victims.  At the end of the speeches, attendees are invited to lay a long-stemmed rose on the etched memorial plaque to pay respect to a life lost in the preceding year. Lives lost to industrial disease are represented with white roses, and the traumatic fatalities with red roses.  Sadly, there were 54 lives lost in 2023, 28 trauma related and 26 exposure to industrial disease. I have always found, after attending the memorial, a renewed sense of the important work that our CEU members provide to the people of BC.   Our members provide answers to family members, friends and industry partners that are vital.

One of the speakers this year was the son of one of the victims, Mike Davis. Mike was only 13 when his Dad died. He started his speech explaining the last words he said to his Dad as he left for work that morning. Those words, “Hi, have a good day”, were the last words they ever had the chance to say. He commented on the recent push for affordable housing could result in a similar neglect of safety protocols that occurred prior to the 1981 tragedy. To quote his poignant comments: “During the fall legislative session a suite of housing legislation was introduced to deliver more homes for people faster in every part of B.C. While I know it isn’t meant to disregard health and safety, it can be misinterpreted by many and safety can be compromised,” Davis said.  When Mike said those words, I noticed a lot of heads nodding in agreement and the politicians in attendance looking down, so I think his comments resonated with others in attendance as well.

I was very proud to attend this years gathering, as I have in the past, with CEU President Laura Snow and Director Kerry-Ann Herron. In my opinion, they continue to represent the Compensation Employees’ Union admirably in these larger labour settings. When I first attended these gatherings, we were not yet a member of the BC Federation of Labour so it is heartening to see the valued member we have become. As the old saying goes, a Union is only as strong as its members and that also applies to the BC Federation of Labour. If you have the chance to attend a BC Federation function in your community please consider going, you will meet other union members in your communities in a different setting!

In the last 36 hours there have been many articles posted online about worker and public safety around cranes and their operations. The Union representing these workers is calling for better safety regulations in this segment of the industry after numerous horrific crane related accidents and fatalities. It is another reminder that safety regulations continue to require review, revision and implementation guidance as workplaces continue to develop.

Janice Hanna

Former CEU Executive, Shop Steward and Seconded Acting Business Agent

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