Homer Seguin set 'hard pace to follow'

The death of long-time union leader and health and safety advocate Homer Seguin in Sudbury has the mining community searching to fill the void.

Unions look to youth for new leadership, advocacy for health and safety in mining industry

The death of long-time union leader and health and safety advocate Homer Seguin in Sudbury has the mining community searching to fill the void.

Seguin was a staunch supporter of the Steelworkers Union right up until his death last Friday.

Long-time union leader and health and safety advocate Homer Seguin died April 26, leaving a gap in leadership that some union officials hope will be filled by younger workers keen on picking up Seguin's fight. (www.lougheedfuneralhomes.com)

The climate and conditions in the mining industry have changed significantly over the decades, making way for both Seguin's legacy and new leadership to emerge.

"He has set a pace for us that will be very hard for us to follow," said Mike Bond, chair of health and safety for the United Steelworkers Local 6500.

'He gave us the path'

He said it was emotional sitting through Homer Seguin's funeral on Monday, but he said the memorial service reaffirmed in him the inspiration he needs to continue fighting for health and safety issues in today's mines.

"We're dealing with issues today I believe that maybe Homer didn't have back in his day," Bond said.

"He certainly dealt with issues that we didn't have today, so I think this is kind of a trade-off. But one thing with Homer, he did give us the path that we want to follow."

Leo Gerard, international president of the United Steelworkers, says young people are needed to take up the workplace health and safety battles that Homer Seguin so tirelessly fought. (www.laborsvoiceforchange.org)

The international president of the United Steelworkers said there are young union leaders who are ready to step in and carry on where Seguin's legacy ends.

"I think it's important that young people know that they didn't get what they got through any gifts," said Leo Gerard, who was in attendance at Seguin’s funeral.

"They got what they got because people like Homer fought those fights and we're going to need those young people to fight those other fights. The workplaces aren't safe yet. the workplaces aren't clean yet. So the work isn't finished."

'Right person at the right time'

Among the things Seguin accomplished was fighting for radiation safety the in Elliot Lake uranium mines and being one of the leaders in establishing the northeast cancer centre, Gerard noted.

"Homer will be missed, but his legacy has created a long, long line of people who, because of his work, have received health and safety training and will pick up the mantle," he continued.

"Homer is special in the sense that he was the right person at the right time through all of these years — whether it was radiation safety in Elliot Lake [or] whether it was mine safety with mines collapsing. Homer was the right person at the right time."

Seguin, who was 79 at the time of his death, had been battling lung ailments for several years.

According to his obituary, Seguin "will be remembered as a person who, through his union, helped improve working conditions and living standards. He helped expose and correct many occupational diseases in mining and other plants and was instrumental in negotiating precedent-setting settlements throughout Canada."