Build a memorial for those who died building the Welland Canal!

The Welland Canal is a critical economic and cultural corridor that played a critical role in shaping the Niagara region and the nation.  The government of Canada promised in 1932 to build a memorial to the 124 men who died during construction, but so far that promise has not been kept.  The men who died working on the construction of the canal deserved to be remembered for their sacrifice.


The political and cultural leaders Niagara
Build a fitting memorial for the 124 men who died building the Welland Canal from 1914 to 1932. The government of Canada promised such a memorial in 1932, and we the undersigned want that promise fulfilled.
[Your name]

When the project began, someone in Ottawa crunched the numbers. No project of the scale of the Welland Canal could be built without a cost in blood. They expected one man to die for every million dollars spent on building the canal.

“It cost about $130 million to build (Over $2 billion in 2013). At least 124 men died, so they were pretty close,” says Arden Phair, the retired curator of the St. Catharines Museum who has taken up the cause of the men who died building the economic heartbeat of Niagara.

All he and a handful of other historians and researchers who have looked into the past of the canal want is for Ottawa to make good on a promise to recognize the fallen.

“A minister of the Crown said, when the canal opened, there would be a memorial to these men,” Phair says. “It was one of the largest losses of life on a public project in Canadian history. I think it’s a promise that should be kept.”

For a time, a potential memorial was front-page news soon after the canal opened in 1932. It was due in no small part to the rhetoric of Robert James Manion, then the minister of railways and canals, who called those who died heroes.

A promise not kept
In 1932, Minister of Railways and Canals Robert James Manion said a memorial would be erected to honour those who died building the canal. At the time, official records said 115 men died. Over time, that number has been amended to 124.

This is what Manion said when the canal opened: “Peace has its heroes as well as war, and in a construction job of this magnitude, with its daily risk and hazard, the sacrifices of human life seems to be unavoidable. It is only right and proper that we should give a thought to the 115 men who lost their lives during the progress of the work. In due course we shall see that the names of these workmen are suitably preserved and made an enduring portion of the great structure that rises not only as a monument to their effort and their lives, but to the efforts of the thousands of working men and engineering helpers whose unremitting toil, often in the face of difficulty and discouragement, made possible the triumph of the present hour.”

Johasson's Bar Parkette

            The Johansson Bar is located on Glendale Avenue by the entrance to the Sobey’s parking lot. The tool is an example of the type of devices needed to build parts of the old Welland canal(s) and the Queenston Monument in Niagara Falls. The bar was used to lift and lower the large slabs of stone used in the building of each lock’s walls (there was even a local settlement named Slabtown). It was used sometime between 1842 and 1845 and has been on display since 1983 after the Walker Brothers Quarries Ltd. donated the bar to the Merritton Community.

            The St.Catharines’ Green Committee's has a plan for the Bar to be moved closer to the sidewalk near Glendale Avenue (the first phase of the project). This phase includes moving the Bar, constructing a parkette where the Bar will be displayed along with stone bench seating; deciduous and coniferous trees; and numerous shrubs and perennials. Additionally the previous area where the Bar was located (currently gravel parking to the west of Sobey’s patron parking lot) will be restored to a park-like setting with trees and grass.

            The second phase of the project (dependant on fundraising but with a desired completion date within the next year or two) would involve constructing a walkway in the middle of the park running north to south in the direction of the old canal Lock 14 (which is buried underneath the park).

            The last phase of the project (again dependant on fundraising but with a desired completion date within the next year or two) is greatly advocated for by Regional Councillor Bruce Timms and canal advocate Rene Ressler. This phase involves upgrading the site west of the Sobeys building using the model of what has been done at Thorold’s Beaverdams Park. This phase basically means clearing and excavating 18 to 24 inches from the top layer of stone and leaving grass cover as the thing to maintain in the area. Then having a sign board placed close to Sobey’s driveway and a smart phone App explaining the Lock including the larger context of the Lybster Mill, The Keg and Mountain Locks Park.

            It must be reiterated, that the project will only be completed with financial contributions from the community at large (in partnership with the St.Catharines’ Green Committee). The cost of the project is approximately $77,500. So far the Green Committee has committed $30,493 to the project and the St.Catharines Horticultural Society has contributed $2,000 (with plans to contribute more after their annual plant sale next month at Bill Burgoyne arena - so please support them!) Should anyone else wish to contribute you can contact Green Committee Co-Chair Dave Haywood at: or Kristen Sullivan, Project & Development Planner - City of St. Catharines’ Recreation & Community Services, at 905-688-5601 (ext. 3145) or email her at

 The Green Committee would be grateful if people considered the following individual items for sponsorship:                      

Engraved Pavers:                $250   (Estimate - needs to be confirmed selection of pavers)

Trees (with plaque):            $400  

Bench (with plaque):            $1,750   (As seen at the Old Courthouse, located beside Market Square)

 ADDITIONAL Notes:          

           Monetary donations over $250 in either goods, labour or funds will be recognized on a donor plaque or the individual item (i.e. tree, bench, etc.)     

          Individuals or businesses who wish to make monetary contributions may direct their donations to the "City of St. Catharines", and indicate on the Memo line "Johansson Parkette". Please direct cheques to P.O. Box 3012, 20 Geneva St. St Catharines, Ontario, L2R7C2, Attn: Green           Committee.   

          Tax receipts will be issued.                  

 For further information, please contact: Kristen Sullivan
 Article by:

David Haywood, Co-Chair -St.Catharines Green Committee