A final push for donations is underway to complete a long-overdue memorial honouring the 137 men killed building the current Welland Canal.
Not long after the canal opened in 1932, Robert James Manion, then federal minister of railways and canals promised a memorial to the men who died and recognition to the thousands who toiled on this massive and dangerous construction effort. Nothing ever came of this pledge—until recently.
Arden Phair, local historian and former curator of the St. Catharines Museum, took up the cause to have a memorial built for these “fallen heroes”. With the help of a handful of other historians and researchers, he searched public records and spoke with surviving relatives to gather the names, ages, countries of origin, causes of death and information related to the family members left behind.
In early 2013, the St. Catharines Standard began to publish articles sharing the stories of these workers, along with the struggles faced by loved ones left behind. Each story helped to raise awareness about this suffering and kickstart a broad-based initiative to build a memorial, beginning with the establishment of the Welland Canal Fallen Workers Memorial Task Force.
The Task Force was responsible for coming up with a strategy to design, finance and ensure completion of the memorial project.
The design will consist of a parkette featuring elements such as walkways and panels fashioned from black steel. Two of these panels, known as the Gates of Remembrance, will be inscribed with the name of each worker killed building the canal from 1918 to 1932, along with those killed dredging the canal from 1932 to 1936. Each of their ages at death and place of birth will also be inscribed.
The memorial will be installed next to the St. Catharines Museum & Welland Canals Centre
located at the canal’s third lock.
To date, the project has secured significant financial support from the corporate community, the labour movement and various levels of government. Donations have also poured in from family members of those killed building the canal and many other individuals, both in the Niagara Peninsula and beyond.
The Task Force is now seeking a final push for donations to ensure the memorial will be unveiled later this year.
Donations are now being accepted online.
Donations can also be made at the Citizen’s First counter at St. Catharines City Hall or the Welland Canals Centre and St. Catharines Museum.
Want to know more about the Welland Canal Fallen Workers Memorial project?
Want to read the Standard’s coverage of the Welland Canal Worker tragedies?
Want to learn more about many other worker memorials in communities across Ontario?