|Remembering the Italian Fallen Workers of Canada.
Sadly, the largest memorial in all of its kind.
The Italian Fallen Workers Memorial Project started with one man's dream, a man who had seen more than his share of fallen
workers during his tenure as labour leader during the late 1950s and early 1960s in Toronto's busy residential construction
industry. Those were turbulent times in Canada's labour history, as Marino Toppan was later going to realize. Spearheaded by
helping to mobilize many residential workers in Toronto's bustling construction industry. They had been pressed into action by the
horrific story of Gerardo Trillo, the Italian immigrant women who had suffered a terrible fate directly related to the plight of the
Italian immigrant workers. A few months later, the tragedy of Hoggs Hollow was to seal the fate of these union leaders in their quest
to right the wrongs of the industry against the workers. On March 17, 1960, five Italian immigrant workers were killed as they
worked in an underground tunnel near York Mills. Through the efforts of Toronto Telegram reporter, Frank Drea, this tragedy
made its way to the establishment, who would never again be blind to the plight of the Italian immigrant workers. The Trillo Tragedy
and the Hoggs Hollow Tragedy pushed these men into action. Together, this group of union leaders was to mobilize and unite the
workers, and completely paralyze the construction sector in Canada's biggest city during the summer of 1960. This in turn, was to
change labour history in this country forever, with changes which were to benefit all workers in Canada.
Without knowing it, these emerging leaders were fighting abuses in the system that were almost a century old, a history that had
somehow always resonated with MarinoToppan. Though he didn't know it at the time, he was set to uncover the largest number of
fallen workers in Canada's history when he focused his retirement on honouring the fallen workers of Italian origin. He began by
being part of the group who erected the monument outside of the Woodbridge Memorial Arena under the leadership of the late
Sergio Tagliavini, of Lo Specchio. However, after the monument was completed, he knew that there was something missing: the
mens' names. Although it was a beautiful monument, and gorgeous work of art, it did not name the men who were killed in terrible
workplace tragedies. Marino knew he had to continue the work. He formed a committee that began with Michael Tibollo and Fr.
Vitaliano Papais, and ended with the final committee of Mario Marra, Fulvio Florio, Gino Cucchi, Fortunato Rao, Pal Di Iulio and
Paola Breda, Lillian Paiano, both led by Marino Toppan. After many years of research and overcoming financial and technical
obstacles, this group succeeded in erecting The Italian Fallen Workers Memorial Wall, in the Memorial Gardens of Villa Charities,
the heart of the Italo-Canadian community in Toronto. The realization and Formal Unveiling of the Memorial Wall Project on April
28th, 2016, will always be an important day for the Italian community of Canada. This is the day that all of the fallen workers in the
Italian community, in their staggering numbers, were finally recognized in our beautiful country.
This is the day that Marino Toppan, along with his committee, uncovered the terrible tragedy of our community. Now numbering in
the thousands, the Italian Fallen Workers have a place where they will be remembered forever, and the Italian-Canadian
community will have a place to mourn those in our collective history who were tragically lost during the progress of Canada.
Italian Fallen Workers Memorial