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Welland Canal Fallen Workers Memorial

Invitation to Fallen Workers Memorial Unveiling
After years of research, planning and fundraising, the memorial to honour 137 workers who lost their lives during construction of the Welland Canal will finally be unveiled on Sunday, Nov. 12, 2017 at 2 pm.
The Welland Canal Fallen Workers Memorial Task Force invites family members and descendants of the fallen workers, and the entire Niagara community to be a part of this special commemorative ceremony at the site of the memorial, just north of the St. Catharines Museum and Welland Canals Centre at Lock 3 in St. Catharines, ON.

Donate Now

It's not too late to contribute to the memorial. There are many ways to donate:

  • at St. Catharines City Hall
  • at the St. Catharines Museum and Welland Canals Centre
  • 1.800.305.5134 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. EST

Your donation will honour the fallen.

Follow the project on Facebook

Open new window to view the Welland Canal Fallen Workers Memorial Facebook page

Follow the project along on Facebook for construction updates, profiles of the fallen workers and upcoming events. 

The Gates reflected in the Veil, south view of the Welland Canal Fallen Workers Memorial


Triumph and Tragedy:  The Welland Ship Canal commemorative book orders 

Triumph and Tragedy:  The Welland Ship Canal is a publication that will profile each of the fallen workers.  It will shed light on the construction work, its immensity and diversity.

Touching upon the communities impacted by the works, the construction railway, and the problems of health and safety, this book brings together in one source the many aspects of this engineering marvel. This book will ensure that the men who lost their lives during the course of the work will not remain just nameless, forgotten workers. The stories of their lives provide an insight into the past.

The limited edition book will be published in early 2018 for $39.95 at the St. Catharines Museum and Welland Canals Centre. 

About the Memorial

In early 2013, stories of the major losses of life during construction of the current Welland Canal were brought to light. The stories of 137 men who lost their lives inspired more than 2,200 people from across Canada and the United States to sign a petition supporting a memorial to honour the "fallen workers." Political representatives from Niagara's four canal communities came together, forming the Welland Canal Fallen Workers Memorial Task Force to finance, design, and build a suitable memorial. Keep updated on the memorial by signing-up for the Welland Canal Fallen Workers Memorial Newsletter.

On August 6, 2015 the Task Force unveiled the design for the memorial and announced a $150,000 grant from the Department of Canadian Heritage to support the project. Mayor Sendzik introduce Greg Wight as the fundraising campaign chair and the first corporate donation of $25,000 from Algoma Central Corporation kicked off the fundraising for the project.

Memorial Design

The Veil in the grove, north view of the Welland Canal Fallen Workers Memorial

The Memorial, design by Dereck Revington Studio Inc., has four primary elements: the Gates of Remembrance, the Veil, the Timeline and the Lock, all within a contemplative grove The Veil: from the north, visitors will see a large blackened steel wall. This side of the Veil is sombre and shadowed, looking back in time. From the south, the veil is a mirror-polished stainless steel, reflecting the surrounding trees, visitors and the Gates of Remembrance.

The Gates of Remembrance rise from the Lock bed of the site, their shape inspired by the lock gates of the canal. Their steel panels are inscribed with the names of the Fallen, their ages at death and places of birth. 12 countries, 8 provinces, 137 men.

The Timeline is embedded on the floor of the site, set below ground level. Each year is marked by a line, its length reflects the number of fatalities in that year. From 1914 to 1932, from the Gates to the Veil: the longest line is 1928, the worst year of fatalities. 29 men fell that year, 10 in one accident, when the crane and gate fell at Lock 6. The shape of the site reflects the deaths within each year of construction.

Fabrication of the memorial has begun. View the project album on Facebook for updates.

Lost Sons, Fathers, Husbands and Brothers

Lock 6 crane and gate collapse - Aug. 1, 1928.

Extensive research is being undertaken by Task Force volunteers to ensure that all the men who died during the construction of the Welland Canal are remembered. In 1932 the count was 115. Today it has reached 137.

Construction projects of the time assumed one man would die for every $1m spent. The Welland Canal cost $130m. Here are just a few stories of some of the Fallen Workers: each man of the 137 has a similar story behind him.

William James Gordon was crushed by a construction train in 1924. He left behind six children to mourn his death. They were raised by the eldest son as their mother had died two years earlier of tuberculosis.

William James Gordon and family 1923c.

Francis Fernley Bassett and William Francis BassettThree families suffered the loss of fathers plus sons. Two of these events occurred on the same day near the same location, August 1st at Lock 6, but separated by three years (Elzéar & Leo Lynch 1925; James & James Campbell McArthur 1928). The third father-son fatalities died in Port Colborne in 1929 (Francis Fernley Bassett and William Francis Bassett - 1929). The father witnessed his son's death when his body was crushed between the arm of a crane and the car at the Clarence Street lift bridge. Six months later, the senior Bassett was crushed to death by the bridge's huge concrete counterweight, only fifty yards from where his son met his untimely death.

Onyschuk, MichaelOne of the last killed, 7 days before the Canal's Official Opening in 1932, was Michael Onyschuk. It was his first day on the job and he died within an hour of arriving at the job site. They were clearing trees that were too close to the Canal channel near Allanburg. The very first tree fell the wrong way, crushing the fleeing victim. Despite having a fractured spine, broken leg, internal injuries, and severe shock, Onyschuk made it to the General Hospital, but died just as his wife arrived. Originally from the Ukraine, Onyschuk had emigrated in 1928, seeking a better life for his family. In 1930 he brought over his wife and children to share in this dream. The job on the Canal was welcomed as it was his first work in two years. His widow was left with no money, little English, and six children to provide for, from a baby in arms to ten years old. Despite their loss, she persevered, keeping the family together and raising her two girls and four boys in their new home of Canada.

The Welland Ship Canal has played a key role in the Canadian economy, and has had a profound influence on the local community: on Niagara's culture, way of life and economy. This amazing feat of engineering, which carries more than 3,000 vessels each year, is an economic driver for two nations. It's time to build A Place to Remember, to honour the men who lost their lives during its construction.

The Welland Canal Fallen Workers Memorial is set to be unveiled in 2017, the year of Canada's 150th birthday celebrations. Please check back for project updates.

Historical images from top to bottom: Lock 6 crane and gate collapse - Aug. 1, 1928. Photo courtesy of St. Catharines Museum - John Kennedy Collection, 1986.131.7 | William James Gordon and family 1923c. Photo courtesy of Maggie Parnall. | Francis Fernley Bassett, 23 (middle) - d. April 6, 1929, crushed by locomotive crane and William Francis Bassett, 43 (left) - d. Oct. 11, 1929, crushed by bridge counterweight. Photo courtesy of Gail Fritshaw. | Onyschuk, Michael - Steel Radiation Co. 1930. Photo courtesy of A. Connon.


Project Support

Thank you to our major donors.


Department of Canadian Heritage

This project is funded in part by the Government of Canada.
Ce projet est financé en partie par le gouvernement du Canada.


Niagara Rgion

City of St. Catharines logo

Platinum Crane Sponsor ($25,000+)

  • Algoma Central Corporation
  • ArcelorMittal Dofasco
  • Canada Steamship Lines
  • Canadian Merchant Service Guild
  • Fednav Limitée
  • Groupe Desgagnés
  • Heddle Marine Service
  • McKeil Marine
  • Niagara Regional Labour Council
  • Ontario Paper Thorold Foundation
  • Rankin Construction Inc.
  • Seafarers International Union
  • St. Catharines Standard
  • St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation
  • Unifor Local 4212 

The memorial is made possible with support from the marine and shipping industry, the labour community, local government, businesses and the community. The fundraising campaign continues. Click here to donate online or please contact for more information.


Welland Canal Fallen Workers Memorial Newsletter

The Welland Canal Fallen Workers Memorial e-newsletter provides regular updates progress, news and upcoming events related to the project.

The newsletter is prepared by the City of St. Catharines on behalf of the Welland Canal Fallen Workers Memorial Task Force. Sign up to receive regular updates.


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