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National Day of Mourning especially sombre in Waterloo

Oscar (Oz) Cole-Arnal addresses the National Day of Mourning ceremony at Waterloo City Hall on Monday.

The National Day of Mourning, an annual ceremony to grieve for workers killed or injured on the job, was more sombre than usual on Monday in Waterloo.

"We meet again and again and again — so sadly — to honour those wounded and murdered at the workplace, to mourn for our dead and fight for our living," Rev. Oscar (Oz) Cole-Arnal, a Waterloo anti-poverty activist and ordained minister, told the crowd of about 150 workers, union leaders and politicians.

"But the only way to really do it is to speak the truth without sugar-coating. The reason for all these deaths … is a direct result of corporate greed, the hunger for profit under such despicable rhetoric and obscene language as 'the cost of doing business,' 'austerity,' 'collateral damage' … These kinds of words are obscene because they hide the fact of corporate greed attacking the poor and vulnerable. And our wounded and dead at the workplace are among those."

...After Witmer spoke, Cole-Arnal took Witmer's WSIB to task.

"The reality is the (Mike) Harris administration brought it in, the Harris administration still keeps it alive. So whether you're politically elected or politically appointed, when you still support the upper elite and use a 'pre-existing condition' to deny (benefits to) workers, then you are responsible for the problem."

Witmer, a former Kitchener-Waterloo Conservative MPP, was appointed by the Liberals to the WSIB in 2012 and makes $188,000 a year.

Standing about six metres from Witmer, Cole-Arnal called on the crowd to sing the union anthem Solidarity Forever.

"And honestly I'd like to ask all the people here, unless you believe in what we're singing, don't sing," he said.

Read the rest of this article, "National Day of Mourning especially sombre in Waterloo" in The Record