06 October, 2020 4:43 PM

ICYMI: Toronto Labour History Walking Tours

“It’s time we unveil the history of the people who built this city, who ran the trains, who kept the mills going.

These are the stories we need to share.”


This map celebrates the stories and struggles of Toronto’s working class. Created by the Toronto Workers History Project with the Toronto Labour Council, the map includes three walking tours, each covering a different time period and area: Map A, 19th Century Toronto, begins the city’s working history; Map B, Early 20th Century Toronto, records Toronto’s early industrial growth; and Map C, Post-War Toronto, takes us to key labour sites from the end of World War II to the present.

Spots include the building at Front and Frederick Streets where William Davies grew his meat packing enterprise, known today as Maple Leaf Foods.  By 1879, the company had become the second largest pork processing facility in North America, earning Toronto its “Hogtown” nickname.  Many of its workers are represented by UFCW.

Most tourists don’t get to appreciate the memorial to Chinese railway workers, situated close to the CNE tower.  Constructed in 1989, this sculpture is dedicated to the 17,000 nameless men from Guangdong province in China who built the Canadian Pacific railway through the Rocky Mountains.  Four thousand workers died during the railway’s construction.

And who knew the site of the Bright Pearl Chinese Seafood Restaurant on Spadina Ave was once the home of Toronto’s Labour Lyceum.  The Lyceum was the organizing hub for Spadina Ave’s garment workers.  Once a huge employer of women and new immigrants, Toronto’s garment industry has been decimated in recent years by the harsh realities of economic globalization and free trade agreements as companies have sent jobs offshore to regions with poor labour standards.

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