I have decided to take a more personal approach with the project on Italian Fallen Workers by researching an incident that involves my grandfather, Oreste Sebastiano. This incident took place in 1989 in Brampton where Oreste was working with his good friend Filippo at Fieldgate Homes, a company which at the time constructed subdivisions. When a trailer needed to be moved, their supervisor asked Oreste and Filippo to help prop up the trailer on cinder blocks so it could be easily taken away by a truck; thus, a jack was used to lift up the trailer and Filippo went under the trailer to place cinder blocks. Due to the muddy and windy conditions that day, the trailer started to slip and ended up falling and catching Filippo in the middle of his torso. Oreste attempted to pull him out with the help of others, but they were unsuccessful and after the trailer was removed from his body, Filippo was rushed to the hospital. Filippo unfortunately passed away that night succumbing to the injuries of the incident.
Oreste was devastated by what had happened, as an Italian Canadian immigrant having Filippo by his side provided a sense of comfort. They would talk to each other in Italian, share stories of their past, and just understand each other’s drive for a new and better life. Oreste felt lost without his good friend by his side but knew he must continue working as a means of providing for his family.
I decided to choose this incident as a way to pay tribute to Filippo, my grandfather Oreste, and to anyone else impacted by the incident. I felt as though this project would be a great way to acknowledge their accomplishments as Italian Canadians and to also start an archive on this incident. From my research and knowledge this incident had never been recorded before, so this acts as a great opportunity to begin collecting data on the accident and death of Filippo and build on the information about this incident from my grandfather’s oral history.
Due to the lack of documentation on this incident, most information is coming directly from an interview with Oreste Sebastiano. Other archives, such as personal documents belonging to Oreste, were used to link the incident to an Italian Canadian worker in Ontario. His personal collection includes Italian passports, Canadian citizenships, and union memberships. Many other outlets have been researched, such as The Land of Triumph and Tragedy, and agencies (including various municipal offices in Brampton) were contacted in hopes that someone would have any records or legal documents surrounding the case. However, I was unsuccessful with finding anything related to this event described in the interview with Oreste Sebastiano. Though, there must be police reports and some legal documents filed for this particular accident.
After the incident, Oreste was only granted the weekend off work and was involved with many legal cases. He was questioned by the police, had to represent himself in court, and was not provided with any support from the union. As a single father, he had to remain working to provide for his family during this traumatic incident; despite being a single parent he was not assisted through the process in any way. He was taken advantage for his work ethics and need for employment as many other Italian Canadian workers were exploited because they needed to work regardless of the position they were placed in, even if that meant taking on jobs without safety procedures and work that the laborers deemed dangerous.
I ask anyone interested in learning or finding more information about the incident to continue their own research. A great starting point would be to try and identify Filippo’s family’ to hear their perspective would be great information to add to the archive. Unfortunately, Oreste cannot remember Filippo’s last name but does recall some other details about his personal life, which are shared in the interview now published on YouTube as “An Italian Canadian’s Reflection on Losing a Co-Worker/Friend on the Construction Site.” To anyone interested, I recommend searching for legal documents associated with the case. I have included on my academic poster and below in the references a full list of sources that I already contacted in my research of this accident. The references also include a link to the full interview with Oreste Sebastiano on YouTube. I encourage those interested in the incident to watch the interview for further details about Filippo and the experience of Oreste as it includes some more detailed information. Feel free to also contact me about the case if you would like; I would be happy to provide any clarifications or additional information that may be needed.
University College at the University of Toronto, 2020
Sebastiano, Oreste. “An Italian Canadian’s Reflection on Losing a Co-Worker/Friend on the Construction Site” Interview by Sebastian Gri.
YouTube. March 2019. https://youtu.be/rIVTs_YvJgU
Sebastiano, Oreste. Personal Document Collection. Toronto, Canada.
Breda, Paola and Marino Toppan. Land of Triumph and Tragedy: Voices of the Italian Fallen Workers: A Century of Italian Immigration to
Canada: Immigrants Who Made It and Those Who Perished Trying. Verità, 2019.
Breda, Paula and Marino Toppan. “List of Italian Fallen Workers.” Monumento Ai Caduti:
Italians-Canadians Who Lost Their Lives At Work, www.monumentoaicaduti.com/IFWMOurDatabase.html.
Criminal Court of Brampton. Interview by Sebastian Gri. Feb 2020. Phone Call.
Criminal Department of the City of Brampton. Interview by Sebastian Gri. Feb 2020. Phone Call. Superior Court of Brampton. Interview by Sebastian Gri. Feb 2020. Phone Call.
Labourers International Union of North America, www.liuna.ca/.
Fieldgate Homes Interview by Sebastian Gri. Feb 2020. Phone Call