Parks Canada pays tribute to past and present Rideau Canal workers

    SMITHS FALLS, ON, Sept. 1 /CNW Telbec/ - On behalf of the Honourable
John Baird, Minister of the Environment and Minister responsible for Parks
Canada, Mr. Gord Brown, Member of Parliament for Leeds-Grenville, and the
executive of the Union of Canadian Transportation Employees, today
commemorated the life of the workers who crafted the canal and celebrated the
workers who carry on the tradition of canal operations. A Tribute to Labour,
the third and last signature event hosted by Parks Canada, is part of a
year-long celebration commemorating the 175th anniversary of the Rideau Canal
    "On behalf of Canada's new Government, I am pleased to be here at the
Jones Falls Lockstation to pay tribute to the past and present workers of the
Rideau Canal",, said Mr. Brown. "The Rideau Canal would not be what it is
today without the dedication and sacrifice of thousands of people".
    Officially opened in the summer of 1832 to provide a secure
transportation route between Montreal and Kingston, the Rideau Canal was built
in just six years. Under the supervision of Lieutenant-Colonel John By and his
Royal Engineers, two companies of the Royal Sappers and Miners, civilian
contractors and two thousand labourers a year, mostly Irish and French
Canadians, cleared the route for the canal using draught animals, shovels,
pick-axes and wheelbarrows. They worked in all seasons and conditions, often
accompanied by their wives and children. During the six years it took to build
the canal, it is estimated that over 1,000 workers died from malaria, other
diseases and work-related accidents.
    Early lockmasters on the canal were often military personnel appointed to
the job after construction was completed. The work of operating the locks has
changed little since the mid 19th century, with most of the canal still
operated by hand. Today, dedicated Parks Canada employees play a leadership
role in protecting and presenting this newly designated World Heritage Site,
with Lock staff also providing high quality visitor experiences for the many
visitors to the Rideau each summer.
    "For 175 years, many generations of lockmasters and lock operators have
preserved the canal's natural and historic features," said Mr. Brown. "It's
because of their dedicated work that visitors from Canada and all over the
world are able to admire this historic waterway".
    In partnership with the Union of Canadian Transportation Employees, which
represents some 7,500 members working for more than 50 employers in various
private and public sectors of the Canadian transportation industry such as the
Rideau Canal, Parks Canada is happy to host A Tribute to Labour. For the
occasion, Jones Falls Lockstation was abound with visitors eager to learn more
about the waterway and the people who crafted and preserve it today. Guests
discovered the life of Peter Sweeney who was the first lockmaster at Jones
Falls, met the Jones Falls blacksmith, learned about traditional trades and
enjoyed the music of many artists such as country star Johnny Reid.

For further information:

For further information: Gavin Liddy, Superintendent, Rideau Canal,
Parks Canada, (613) 283-7199 ext. 235; Pam Buell, Communications Manager,
Eastern Ontario, Parks Canada, (613) 283-7199 ext. 219; (Also available on the
Internet at under Media Room.)

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