April 28th is The Day of Mourning honouring workers in Canada who were killed, injured or disabled on the job. The following bike tour visits a number of commemorative sites throughout the region alluding to the Day of Mourning. The route is entirely along bike paths.
The tour begins in Vincent Massey Park overlooking the Rideau River. Just off the bike path near the southern end of the park sits a carved stone memorial commemorating the Day of Mourning. The location of the memorial was chosen for it’s proximity to the Heron Road Workers Memorial Bridge, finished in 1967, one year after a previous bridge at the same site collapsed killing nine workers in the worst construction accident in Ottawa’s history.
The tour heads south, up along the Rideau River Eastern Pathway. It then crosses over Hogs Back Falls before turning north along the Rideau Canal Eastern Pathway. Cross the canal over the Hartwell Locks opposite Carleton University.
The ride continues down along the Rideau Canal Western Pathway through the Arboretum and around Dows Lake. A short distance away from the northern edge of Dows Lake on Preston Street a construction site accident occurred on March 23, 2015 – the tragic death of Olivier Bruno who was struck by a falling chunk of ice while inspecting the construction pit.
Continue to ride all the way way downtown along the canal as far as City Hall. Before heading under the Laurier Street bridge, turn off the path onto the plaza infront of City Hall. At the north east corner of the plaza along Laurier you will see the Ottawa Firefighters Memorial. The memorial includes are number of black marble plaques depicting images of firefighters who have perished in the line of duty with accompanying interpretive texts describing their service, some dating back to the mid 1800’s.
Head back to the Rideau Canal Pathway and continue north along the edge of the canal. Just before reaching Sappers Bridge that passes under Wellington Street, you will encounter two short sets of stairs. These have metal troughs along which you can push your bike to avoid having to carry it up the stairs. Ride under the bridge, then down the hill. The canal locks wil be to your right and Parliament Hill high up above to your left. Cross over to the other side of the canal across the second to last set of locks closest to the Ottawa River. Once on the opposite side of the canal you will notice a celtic cross. The engraving in the base of the cross reads,’In memory of 1000 workers and their families who died building this canal’. An accompanying interpretive panel helps to explain the context in which these workers found themselves and the hardships they endured. UPDATE, August 2017 – Unfortunately the cross was knocked over and has yet to be replaced.
The bike tour continues up the hill to the left of the cross. At the top of the hill, turn left onto the bike path and cross the Alexandra Bridge over the Ottawa River along the wooden boardwalk. Once arrived on the Quebec side of the bridge, cross the intersection to the opposite corner where the Sentier de l’Île pathway begins. This path heads inland along Boulevard des Allumettières. Les Allumettières were female workers in the local EB Eddy plant who fabricated wooden matches from the 1800’s up until 1928 when the plant closed. The working conditions they endured were extremely dangerous and unhealthy. An interpretive panel along the path goes into more detail on the incredible challenges Les allumettières encountered.
Thus completes The Day of Mourning bike tour. For those interested in further exploring the path along Sentier de l’ile check out this ride.