Cape Bretoners remember fallen miners, despite pandemic
Gathering not allowed, so people quietly laid wreaths or just reflected on William Davis Miners' Memorial Day
For the second year in a row, the pandemic has forced the cancellation of William Davis Miners' Memorial Day ceremonies honouring those who have died in Nova Scotia coal mines.
Because of restrictions on gatherings, people in Cape Breton Regional Municipality had to find another way to safely honour the day's namesake, who was shot and killed on June 11, 1925, during a strike by miners in New Waterford.
People gathered on the anniversary of William Davis's death by the hundreds before the pandemic.
This year, a handful of people visited the Miner's Memorial in his hometown. Some quietly laid a wreath and some just dropped by to reflect for a short while.
"You notice a few come in and say a little prayer and people are heading to the graveyard today, too, and a lot of people will be here to show respects throughout the day," said Darren O'Quinn, who represents the New Waterford district on CBRM council.
Even though the pandemic shut down the annual church service and wreath ceremony, O'Quinn said the formal commemoration with the public will continue when restrictions ease.
"There's so many coal mining families in Cape Breton, it'll never be forgotten, what he [did] and the sacrifice he made," the councillor said.
"I don't think there's any danger of Davis Day going away."
Kendra Coombes, the NDP MLA for Cape Breton Centre, was there to remember those who fought the mining company for a living wage and decent working conditions 96 years ago.
"They went up to the New Waterford power and water plant to restore power and water to the town because they were starving," she said.
"They were on the brink of starvation and we can never forget the sacrifices that William Davis and the Davis family and all those miners and the community members that marched up there, we can never forget what they were trying to do for our town."
Bob Burchell, a retired union representative with the United Mine Workers of America, said he was glad to see the day has not been forgotten by some people. But it is not the same as years ago when businesses would close for the day.
"I just wish the retail community would follow suit and show their respect because if it wasn't for the coal miners, they wouldn't be here," he said.
Burchell said he is laying plans for the return of a ceremony next year.
"There's people that have been in and out of the monument all day showing their support, so I think people are still showing their commitment to Davis Day and hopefully next year it'll be bigger and better than ever."