For those who have followed my work in the St. Catharines Standard, I have been writing about the long promised, but never realized, memorial for the 137 men who died building the Welland Canal from 1914 to 1935 for five years now.
I won’t repeat the full story of the workers here. I wrote an entire series on the subject in 2013 which I encourage you to read. But this is the Reader’s Digest version:
137 men died building the canal and in 1932 when the canal opened the federal government promised a memorial in their honour. That memorial never came.
Following the series we wrote at The Standard, the city of St. Catharines struck a task force to build it, and over the last five years local politicians, business, unions, artists and the community writ large worked to finally – more than eight decades after it was promised – get the memorial built.
— Grant LaFleche (@GrantRants) November 7, 2017
The memorial was officially opened at a ceremony on Nov. 12 which I was honoured to act as emcee at.
Writing about the lives of the workers who died building the canal, seeing those stories play a part in getting the memorial built and being part of the unveiling of the memorial itself, has been one of the most satisfying moments of my career.
If you are in Niagara, I strongly encourage you to take a moment to visit the memorial near the Lock 3 Museum in St. Catharines. Reading the series we published will give you the background to understand why this memorial means so much to so many people. And it is worth taking the time to watch the video of the ceremony below (skip to the 25-minute mark of the video to the start of the event). There are some fantastic performances from local artists inspired by the stories fo the fallen, some great lessons about Canadian history and a treat to see, nearly a century later, the names of men who died working to make this country stronger finally recognized in public.
A special shout to historian Arden Phair, who I worked closely with to bring the stories of the workers to life in the newspaper, and to my editors at the time Erica Bajer and Wendy Metcalfe who were instrumental in getting the series done and having the paper actively advocate for the memorial.