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110th Anniversary of the Hillcrest Mine Disaster

Masonic tribute to their fallen members during the Hillcrest Mine Disaster Memorial. Nicholas L. M. Allen photo.

Nicholas L. M. Allen

Jun 26, 2024

The event honoured the 189 miners who lost their lives in Canada’s deadliest mining disaster.

The 110th anniversary of the Hillcrest Mine Disaster was solemnly commemorated in a service organized by the Crowsnest Heritage Initiative on June 23. The event honoured the 189 miners who lost their lives in Canada’s deadliest mining disaster.

The memorial, held at 1 p.m., began with an entrance of dignitaries led by a Colour Party, including Sgt. At Arms Brad Edmondson, the Crowsnest Pass Legions, Sentinel Summit Lodge #26, and the Miner Honour Guard. The tones of the bagpipes, played by Alex Chisholm, echoed as attendees gathered to pay their respects.

Fred Bradley, chair of the Crowsnest Heritage Initiative and the Master of Ceremonies, welcomed attendees and acknowledged the significance of the event’s impact. 

“Many have travelled to be here today,” said Bradley, “As we reflect on the enormity of the event and other mining disasters, let us remember those who died and the communities they left behind.”

The service featured poignant remarks from several notable speakers, each reflecting on the disaster’s impact and the resilience of the community.

Chris Matthews, CEO of Heritage Crowsnest and representative of the Hillcrest Mine Disaster Centennial Memorial Committee, spoke about the enduring legacy of the miners.

“Standing here, I am proud of this community that sees the importance of continuing to mark an event that shook this valley to its core,” said Matthews, “We continue to mourn the individuals lost on June 19, 1914, and honour the widows and children who persevered in the aftermath.”

Gary Taje, representative of the United Mine Workers of America, offered a moving tribute to the miners. 

“These men went into the mine for a paycheck, not knowing they wouldn’t return. They deserve better than to die a horrible death, and we owe it to them to ensure their memory lives on,” said Taje.

Mike Young, CEO of Northback and representative of the Coal Association of Canada, emphasized the importance of safety in mining. 

“We owe it to people to ensure that [mining] is safe because it is a basic human right to come home from work safe and uninjured.”

Deputy Mayor Lisa Sygutek reflected on the collective memory and resilience of the Crowsnest Pass community. 

“As we stand here today, let us not only mourn their loss but celebrate their lives and contributions. Our community, forged from the heart of the Earth itself, remains strong and united,” said Sygutek.

Chelsae Petrovic, MLA for Livingstone-Macleod, underscored the significance of remembering the miners’ sacrifices. 

“We must pledge to keep the memory of the Hillcrest Miners alive, ensuring that the lessons learned, and the lives lost are never forgotten,” said Petrovic.

Musical performances by Tynan Groves added a reflective tone to the event, further honouring the memory of the miners. The ceremony concluded with a wreath-laying, with representatives including Jean Shafer, representing the families of the victims, Constable Chris Marchand of the RCMP, and Belle Kovach of the Crowsnest Heritage Initiative.

Following the ceremony, a reception was held at the Hillcrest Miners Club, where the community continued to share memories and support each other, reflecting the resilience and unity that has defined Hillcrest for over a century.

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