Toronto has been, in the most literal way possible, built by immigrants. English hands raised the timbers of Fort York. Germans carved Yonge Street out of the forest. Irishmen and Italians, Ukrainians, Poles and people from all over the world have built our bridges, paved our streets and erected one of the tallest buildings in the history of the world.
The city's Italian community was devastated. In the wake of the disaster, a fund was set up to help the victims' families and Johnny Lombardi (the friendly old fellow who ran CHIN until he died a few years ago) held a benefit concert at Massey Hall. On the political front, the Toronto Telegram led the charge, running one front page story after the other with headlines like "SLAVE IMMIGRANTS" until, finally, the provincial government ordered a Royal Commission to investigate. In the end, stricter safety and labour laws were passed.
And that's pretty much been it. As the Toronto Star pointed out in an article last year, the laws haven't really been updated since. More than 400 construction workers in Ontario have died on the job since 1990—most of them in gruesome and preventable ways: crushed by equipment, fallen from scaffolding, drowned, electrocuted, sliced open. And as employers continue find ways around the fifty-year old laws, those numbers are expected to go up.
A version of this story will appear in
The Toronto Book of the Dead
Coming September 2017 from Dundurn Press
Available for pre-order now
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03 The Death of Giovanni Fusillo
Giovanni Fusillo, 1960