Donkin mine operator notably absent from Davis Day ceremony

The 93rd anniversary of the death of coal miner Bill Davis was marked today in New Waterford by a church service, wreath laying, speeches and songs. But one company was notably absent.

'I think they should have shown a little more respect'

A member of The Men of the Deeps lays a wreath at the Davis Day ceremony in New Waterford. (Yvonne LeBlanc-Smith)

The 93rd anniversary of the death of coal miner Bill Davis was marked Monday in New Waterford by a church service, wreath laying, speeches and songs from the miners' choir, Men of the Deeps.

In other parts of Nova Scotia the anniversary is known as Miners Memorial Day, but in Cape Breton it is Davis Day.

Davis was a coal miner who was shot and killed by coal company police during the miners' strike of 1925.

It happened on June 11, during a demonstration to protest the company's decision to shut down power to the town of New Waterford.

Davis's descendants remembered him by laying wreaths at the monument and park that bear his name.

Of the 40 wreaths that were also laid on behalf of families, governments and unions, there was a notable absence.

No representation from Donkin mine

There was no representation at the event from Cape Breton's only working underground coal mine in Donkin.

"Maybe they are feeling bad for firing the 49 experienced coal miners and that's why they didn't do it, but I think they should have shown a little more respect," said Bobby Burchell, a retired United Mine Workers representative.

"Last year, Kameron Collieries did have someone there and I thought it was nice of them to remember our heritage and our history."

According to Kameron Coal, the layoffs last November were linked to ill-suited equipment that was holding back production.

The mine's operator came under fire in May after it was learned it had regularly violated provincial safety standards.

Burchell confirmed the UMW is trying to unionize the Donkin mine.

"We have several union organizers that are working on the Donkin project and we are working with the Canadian Labour Congress and the Nova Scotia Federation of Labour," he said. "You can't say too much about an organizing drive until we get some success."

No one from Donkin mine returned a call from CBC to respond to the Davis Day criticism, but a written statement was provided.  

It said, "Due to mine operations, [Donkin mine vice president] Shannon Campbell was unable to attend the Davis Day ceremony this year, and lay a wreath. As done in previous years, workers at the Donkin Mine will participate in annual safety training activities to mark this day of remembrance."

About the Author

Yvonne LeBlanc-Smith

Reporter

Yvonne LeBlanc-Smith was born and raised in Cape Breton. She began her career in private radio in Sydney and has been with CBC as a reporter, early morning news editor and sometimes host since 1990.