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The Toronto Monument Dedicated To Those Who Died Building The City

Katherine Notman Katherine Notman

The Toronto Monument Dedicated To Those Who Died Building The City

In the beautiful Simcoe Park there is a monument that charts the interesting yet gruesome past of working conditions for blue-collar workers in Toronto.

The Workers’ Monument at Simcoe Park, also known as the 100 Workers’ Monument or the WSIB Monument, was built in 2000, commissioned by the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board. [Photo: @thelastoneleft_1n5t46r4m]

Inscribed on the monument are the names of 100 people who died whilst at work in the 99 years between 1901 and 2000. Some died in horrific workplace accidents like Alex McClean, who died in 1902, ‘from to wounds and burns resulting when an archway covering a kiln collapsed.’

Photo: micalmoser

Others sadly died due to illnesses contracted as a direct result of their working environment, such as Joseph Schnur (1974) and Maxwell Atkinson (1976) who, like many across the globe, contracted asbestosis from asbestos in the workplace and died as a result of this condition.

Photo: micalmoser

Reading the names on the monument and the circumstances in which they passed away, it is possible to trace the history of industrialization in Canada and the threat to life that emerged alongside the rapid technological advancement.

Photo: shotsbyjoezeph

We also see the term ‘silicosis’ and this marks the very beginnings of mechanization in Toronto. Although silicosis has been a thorn in the side of workers for thousands of years, the introduction of tools such as circular saws, which throw out clouds of dust, increased the prominence of this condition, which explains the pretty horrible nickname of ‘potters rot’.

This disease still kills today but, thankfully, health and safety precautions such as the use of masks to prevent inhalation of silica dust, mean that fewer workers suffer from silicosis.

Photo: famarri

The statue of a worker who has been placed to look as though he were building the wall itself, is wearing safety gear and this introduces the idea of hope to the monument. Although the men and women on the statue represent just a small percentage of those who have given their lives¬†unnecessarily in the workplace, the worker’s safety gear serves as a reminder of how far the country has come. It also reminds us that identifying issues can lead to the creation of a better living environment for everyone.

The blank plaque at the far end of the monument is for future casualties. It represents the need to keep our eyes on the ball and ensure that Canada’s citizens enjoy a quality of life that is fit for the modern era.

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