Gold for the Italian Fallen Workers

Hundreds of contributors including many Italian Canadian professors and AICW members collaborated on what became a ten-year project, culminating in the publication of a ground-breaking new book on the whole story of the Italian immigration to Canada. Land of Triumph and Tragedy covers the century of migration out of the various regions of Italy at varying times fanning into and across the vast Dominion of Canada from the early 1880s to the end of the 1980s. Started as the brainchild of now ninety-year old Cav. Marino Toppan, the project from which the book sprung was formally unveiled on 28 April 2016. The Italian Fallen Workers Memorial Wall represents the largest Memorial Wall of its kind in Canada and commemorates the fallen workers of Italian origin who were killed in workplace tragedies across the soil of our great nation. After a 50-year quest to begin this project and a decade long period of in-depth research, the Italian Fallen Workers Memorial Wall has become an historically significant piece of Canadian History and is now being considered for designation as an official Heritage site. Once the Memorial Wall was completed, we realized that the stories of the fallen workers completely opened the history of Italian immigration in Canada like never before; everywhere there was a fallen worker was a community. Taken together, the communities form the geographical atlas of the Italian settlements in Canada which sprang to life, as well as the contribution to the fields of railway-building, mining and construction, the staggering statistics of fallen workers, and so many themes (never before brought to light) in the story of our immigration to Canada became integral parts of this large volume.
To date, Land of Triumph and Tragedy (and its sister book, The Voice of Labour) have received critical acclaim in various print materials, most notably Quaderni d’Italianistica and Italian Canadiana. They are also currently being included by various professors for inclusion in their syllabi. Accenti Magazine in Montreal also recently published a complimentary review. In one of the proudest days of the author’s lives, The Italian Fallen Workers Memorial Project was awarded a medaglia d’oro by the Government of Italy, the first time such a prestigious level of award was given outside Italy. A poignant poem of the same name was gifted to the Project by pre-eminent poet Gianna Patriarca and is included in the book. Incredibly significant photographs and artistic consultation was gifted to the project by Vincenzo Pietropaolo – award winning Toronto photographer — making the book an artistically stunning and historically significant volume.
Land of Triumph and Tragedy: Voices of the Italian Fallen Workers is a seminal work and a significant new entry into the body of work reflecting the Italian Canadian experience historically. It weaves together all the communities, connecting related themes across the country, in every place where settlement occurred. The volume profiles and details for the first time in Canadian history, the story of the Italian Fallen Workers, who were killed in workplace tragedies throughout their immigration – an untold story in Canadian history.
The authors have already engaged in a book tour of sorts, presenting their findings in St. Catharines at the invitation of ICAP, at the Famèe Furlane in Toronto, at the North Bay Davedi Italian Club, as well as the Sudbury Caruso Club (in conjunction with Laurentian University). Several other significant talks are being scheduled in the New Year and over the course of the spring at the University of Toronto, the Istituto Culturale in Toronto, the Italian Club in Vancouver, the Archives of Montreal at Casa d’Italia, the Veneto Club in Vaughan and many more.
The authors of Land of Triumph and Tragedy: Voices of the Italian Fallen Workers, Paola Breda and Marino Toppan, gratefully acknowledge the support of Villa Charities, the Embassy of Italy and prominent figures in Toronto’s Italian community. Paola Breda is the Assistant Co-Ordinator, Italian Fallen Workers Memorial Project
For more information: or (Paola Breda)

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