In 2000, a plaque commemorating the Hogg’s Hollow tragedy was erected at the entrance of the York Mills Subway station. The plaque serves as a way to remember the five Italian Canadian labourers (Pasquale Allegrezza, Giovanni Battista Carriglio, Giovanni Fusilo, Alessandro Mantella and Guido Mantella) who died while working in an underground tunnel in order to connect the growing borough of NorthYork with a water-main. The following is an assessment of the commemorative plaque in order to evaluate its effectiveness at interpreting the historical meaning of the Hogg’s Hollow tragedy. In concluding, this essay will examine the pitfalls of the act of commemoration tied to the problems of the commemorative plaque which is discredited by the failure to properly expose the socio-politicalunderlying issues which should be remembered from the event.
The historical nature of an event or person in contention for commemoration can sometimes be a controversial issue which partly defines the pitfalls of the act of commemoration itself. In the case of the Hogg's Hollow tragedy, the underlying socio-political issues that are tied to the disaster are crucial for the understanding of the wayit was commemorated, and more importantly, the incredible length of time it took to be considered for commemoration. Notably, the tragedy does not aspire into a glorious event that took place in a glorious past. In her work entitled ‘“Battle and Burial”: Recapturing the Cultural Meaning of Canada’s National Memorial on Vimy Ridge,’ Jacqueline Hucker examines the process of commemoration of one ofCanada’s proudest moments in international military history. Looking over the Vimy Ridge war memorial, it is safe to say that a great amount of time, effort and money was invested in order to build a grand symbol of Canadian greatness. Of course, apart from the obvious necessity to honour the fallen soldiers, the memorial stands as a propaganda tool in order to calm public unrest
over the end ofone of the most controversial, unnecessary and horrific wars the world had ever seen. Nevertheless, the Vimy Ridge war memorial is supposed to commemorate “the military action and military sacrifice,” as per Hucker, thus capturing a glorious past representing Canadian pride. On the contrary, the Hogg's Hollow tragedy is an event which greatly undermines the status of the city of Toronto, as wellas the governing body of Ontario at the time. In effect, it does not account for a glorious past, but more of a dark spot in Canadian history. Author of ‘Experts on our lives: Commemorating Canada at the Beginning of the 20th Century’, Veronica Strong-Boag demonstrates this idea by stating that the push towards commemoration is cautiously made if it interferes with the public image of Canada.Subsequently, while commemorating the five Italian Canadian workers who died on the job site, the commemorative plaque of Hogg's Hollow also symbolises the concept of immigrant slavery as well as the backward state of the labour front in Canada. Thus, the event marks an embarrassment for a city that now prides itself at being culturally diverse while maintaining ethnic equality, possibly being adirect reason for the delay of commemoration.
The notion of the Hogg's Hollow tragedy being a national embarrassment is accentuated by the way the event was commemorated. Indeed, other commemorative acts such as war memorials seem like Goliaths as compared to the plaque of the Hogg's Hollow tragedy. For example, the sheer size of the Vimy Ridge war memorial dwarfs everything in its surrounding,which not only accentuates the importance of the commemoration but also reveals that the intent of the Canadian Government is to promote military history at such expensive cost. Of course, comparing the level of importance of such disasters as the First World war and the Hogg's Hollow tragedy is inappropriate and would undermine the purpose of this argumentation. Discrediting the Vimy Ridge war...
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