Every year on April 28th, Canada marks a National Day of Mourning to honour workers who have died or were injured on the job. This year, we decided to write an article to commemorate Colin Toner. His story is a tragic, unjust one, and that is why we want to take the time to share it with you.
In 1995, Colin Toner began his career with the Canadian Coast Guard. For 25 consecutive years, he was a lighthouse keeper on over 12 different islands. He and his wife have raised their three children in conditions very different from the reality others experience. “We get our mail and groceries once a month,” says Carrie Toner, Colin Toner’s wife. “He once worked 720 days in a row before taking a day off.
This dedicated man was involved in various Coast Guard training programs to educate and improve workplace safety. In British Columbia, the entire lightkeeper community knew of him. He took great pride in his profession and was involved in CCG safety. He brought a lot of experience to the West Coast of Canada. “He was a very good mentor, an exemplary husband, as well as a loving and generous father,” declares Carrie Toner.
He was very passionate about his job; he had dedicated his entire life to it. His last assignment was to the Chatham Islands in 2016. After four years on the job, on January 29, 2020, a tragic work accident occurred. He fell into the water and drowned. His wife who worked on site with him was not present to come to his aid. Colin had often spoken out about the hazards of lightkeepers having to work in unideal situations. In 2018, he spoke to Coast Guard in an open meeting about mental health and safety issues in the workplace, as of the time of the incident no policy change was made.
Colin Toner was dedicated to keeping lighthouses and the Canadian community safe. His loss helps to demonstrate the need for what he strived for. Fourteen months later, the investigation is still ongoing, with several action items identified to provide potential improvements. While the Toner family has yet to hear any conclusion to the investigation into this workplace accident, they view it as a way to continue what Colin worked towards in his career. The Toner family hopes that if anything can come out of his passing it is that health and safety is taken seriously within the Federal Government and that no other family has to suffer this tragedy “It’s time for things to change for these people. This kind of incident should never happen,” says Carrie Toner.