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Who’s Who: Homer Seguin, union and community leader

 

 

Homer Seguin

Homer Seguin

Forsaking his dream of law school after the sudden death of his father, Homer Seguin, walking into what once was one of the most terrifying work environments in Canada, Inco‘s sintering plant. Fifty years ago a 16-year-old boy would work at just about anything to provide for his family.

He didn’t know it then but Seguin was starting on a career that would revolutionize health and safety standards for Canada’s labour force, and along the way would earn him an honorary doctor of laws in labour studies from Laurentian University. Seguin received a Community Builders Award from Northern Life in 2009 in the safety, health and environment category.

Seguin died in April 26, 2013. He held numerous union posts during his career, but health and safety was always his primary issue. His tireless efforts led to the creation of workers health and safety inspectors. He persisted in his demands to have Inco’s sulphur emissions reduced, a strategy that led to Sudbury’s regreening program.

His career would span 40 years during which he helped win more than $100 million in compensation for thousands of gold miners diagnosed with various forms of cancer. He became the country’s leading expert on industrial health and safety issues and sat on several bargaining committees that won many safety concessions from Inco, as well as indexed pensions for union members.

Enhanced environmental health protection was a major platform of Seguin’s. It resulted in a tremendous victory of labour, the right to refuse unsafe work. Born in North Bay in 1934, Seguin moved to Sudbury at the age of seven. He would later spend nearly eight years of his union career helping miners in Elliot Lake. He was also elected a municipal councillor.

He returned to Sudbury in 1982 and continued to actively contribute to health and safety conferences and speak out about environmental issues.

In 2008, Seguin wrote his life story. Entitled Fighting For Justice And Dignity: The Homer Seguin Story chronicles his life from the age of 16, when he started with Inco at the Sintering Plant in Copper Cliff, to his retirement in 1992.

The book is 173 pages, with 40 pictures and was self-published. Journal Printing printed the copies on recycled paper using union labour. It chronicles the rise of the whole union movement here and my activity from being a steward on the safety committee to a union trustee in 1963, to vice-president of Local 6500 in 1965, to president in 1967.

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