Nova Scotia

Hundreds gather to remember Westray mine victims

Hundreds of people huddled in the cold rain Wednesday night to remember the 26 men who died in Nova Scotia's Westray Mine 20 years ago.

Men of the Deeps sing of community's grief

Mourners remembered the 26 lost miners at Westray Memorial Park Wednesday evening. (CBC)

Hundreds of people huddled in the cold rain Wednesday evening in New Glasgow, N.S.,  to remember the 26 men who died in the Westray Mine 20 years ago.

Mourners held hands as they stood in prayer and paid their respects. Local high school students laid down 26 white roses to remember the miners and the Men of the Deeps sang.

The ceremony finished with a promise that a disaster like Westray will never happen again.

It was the end of a long day in New Glasgow, as relatives, union members and politicians started with a morning march of about one kilometre from the local community centre to Westray Memorial Park, stopping before a black marble monument bearing the names of the men killed in the disaster on May 9, 1992.

'It's something I'll never forget'

Leonard Levigne said he remembers rushing to the coal mine in Plymouth that day to help with recovery efforts.

"They said, 'Your first trip underground is going to be recovery.' It was already changed from a rescue to a recovery, so that's how we started off on our first mission," he told CBC News Wednesday morning.

"It's something I'll never forget and I'll keep with me forever."

Levigne, who works at Xstrata's Brunswick Mine near Bathurst, said it was important to remember the men and show their families they have not been forgotten.

"They're still in our thoughts and in our hearts," he said.

Debbie Martin, whose brother-in-law Glenn Martin died in the disaster, said relatives find it comforting to come together.

She said the memorial will be a remembrance of loved ones and a chance to share time with others who experienced a similar loss.

Mine owner, managers responsible for dangerous conditions

Rev. Glen Matheson opened the ceremony with a prayer and moment of silence at 7 a.m.

Stephen Hunt, a representative of the United Steelworkers union, told the crowd that not enough is being done to prosecute those responsible for workplace deaths.

"I think some laws have changed and on the books it's better, but in practise I don't see the enforcement," he said.

"It's going to take some governments with some courage, it's going to take some regulators with some courage, it's going to take town council with courage to challenge the laws and challenge what they know is wrong."

An inquiry into the disaster found the owner and managers were responsible for dangerous conditions at the mine, but the Crown wasn't able to prosecute any employers.

With files from The Canadian Press