Breaking Ground The Hogg's Hollow Memorial 40 th Anniversary Project
On March 17, 1960, five immigrant workers were killed in the prime of their lives while constructing a watermain tunnel at Hogg's Hollow (near Old York Mills Road and Yonge Street): Pasquale Allegrezza, Giovanni Battista Carriglio, Giovanni Fusillo, and brothers Alessandro and Guido Mantella. According to official reports, the untimely and tragic deaths of these men were the direct result of continuous safety violations.
The Hogg's Hollow Disaster, as it has become known, stands as a woeful reminder of the widespread exploitation of workers, particularly immigrant workers, that existed during the early 1960s - a turbulent time for this city's labour movement.
As a result of this tragedy, workers across Ontario were mobilized to form stronger unions, and to organize around important industry safety issues. In response, the government announced a royal commission to study and modernize all worker safety regulations, paving the way for a modern labour act in Ontario.
In commemoration of this watershed event in the history of Canada's labour movement, COSTI Immigrant Services and visual artist Laurie Swim formed a partnership to create Breaking Ground, The Hogg's Hollow Disaster, 1960, a lasting tribute to the workers who lost their lives in the tragedy, and a public recognition of the contribution that immigrant workers have made to the development of this province.
A project of the magnitude of Breaking Ground, however, could not have been undertaken without the support and generosity of a large number of individuals, community-based organizations, government funders, labour groups, and businesses. In a unique arrangement, each supporter essentially purchased a cloth "brick" that was incorporated into the finished piece.
The actual creation of the quilt itself was also a true collaboration in every sense of the term, with Laurie being assisted by a wonderful team of committed volunteers, who each gave their time and energy to ensure that this project was a success. Each of the figures in the mural was lovingly interpreted by a talented volunteer: the Mantella brothers, Guido and Alessandro, by Mical Perlman and Jackie Langeman; Giovanni Carriglio by B.J. Reid and her husband, Jim Nelles; Giovanni Fusillo, a double figure, by Mary Wahl; and the figure of Pasquale Allegrezza by Laurie herself. In addition to these individuals, there were many more local artists and members of the community who contributed to the creation of the mural tunnel, and of the Donor Brick Wall that frames the piece. Their contributions are greatly appreciated.
Members of the families of the deceased also became involved in the project. It has been their personal involvement that has given the project its emotional center. Through the unique insights and personal reflections of the families, those involved with the project have gained a deeper understanding of the lives of the men, and of the loss that the families experienced on that fateful day. Their involvement has ensured that the memories of these men are given the respect that they most definitely deserve, and that their sacrifices are finally recognized and understood.
For Grace Fusillo-Lombardi, Honourary Chair of the Hogg's Hollow Memorial Project, and niece of Giovanni Fusillo, involvement in this project has allowed her to finally learn what really happened to her uncle. It also offered an important opportunity to educate a new generation of the sacrifices and accomplishments of those who have gone before us. Breaking Ground acknowledges and preserves the memory of those who have helped to bring about significant changes that continue to protect the lives of workers today.
As work on the project progressed, it soon attracted the interest of the media, proving, through the widespread coverage that resulted, that the deaths of these men were not in vain. Their sacrifices are finally being publicly recognized as the catalyst that spurred the Province of Ontario into taking the actions necessary to ensure that others did not meet the same fate.
On Thursday, February 11 th , 2000, family members, volunteers, and supporters all gathered together at a gala dinner for the formal unveiling of this magnificent tribute.
March 17, 2000 - A Day of Remembrance
In demonstration of the City of Toronto's commitment to the continued safety of all workers, and in acknowledgement of the contributions of all immigrant workers, whose sweat, toil, and blood built this very city, Mayor Mel Lastman proclaimed March 17 th , 2000 as a Day of Remembrance in tribute to the five victims of Hogg's Hollow.
On March 17, 2000, 40 years to the day of the tragedy, members of the community gathered together at St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church to offer respect to the families of the victims, and to pay homage to the men who were struck down in the prime of their lives. It was a solemn event that reminded everyone in attendance of the very personal and emotional aspects of this project.
A Lasting Tribute
By generating discussion within the community, and educating all Canadians, particularly young people, about the broad and vibrant history of immigrant workers, Breaking Ground celebrates achievement so that residents of this city are inspired to know and appreciate the past, and to welcome the challenges and opportunities of the future.
Historical commemorative cultural projects such as Breaking Ground are essential for the building of healthy communities. This mural provides a lasting tribute to the workers who lost their lives in the tragedy, and a public recognition of the contribution that immigrant workers have made to the development of this province.
With the support of the Toronto Transit Commission, the City of Toronto, and numerous trade unions, the York Mills Subway Station, which is metres away from where the accident occurred, will become the permanent site for the completed work. At this location, thousands of people will have the opportunity to pass by and reflect on the mural each day.
Through Breaking Ground, many will come to know the truth about this tragic incident, and the story of the five young men, who, through their ultimate sacrifice, helped change the history of this province.