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Importance of Prairie grain industry recognized

What was once the world’s largest grain port linked the economies of Canada’s east and west

The contribution of Prairie grain transshipment facilities to Canada’s economic development was officially recognized this summer with the unveiling of a plaque by the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada and Parks Canada. The plaque commemorates the development of grain handling and shipping facilities at the Port of Thunder Bay.

The event was the result of work by Friends of Grain Elevators (FOGE), a group of area residents dedicated to preserving history of what was for many years the world’s largest grain-handling port at the towns of Fort William and Port Arthur, which merged to become Thunder Bay in 1970.

The Canadian Pacific Railway built the first terminal elevator at Port Arthur in 1883-84. By 1929 there were 30 elevators holding 88.5 million bushels (2.4 million tonnes) of western grain.

While the balance of Canadian grain exports has shifted to the West Coast, Thunder Bay still has an important role for moving grain, especially from Manitoba and eastern Saskatchewan. The seven terminal elevators still in operation shipped 7.9 million tonnes in the last crop year.

Presenting the plaque on behalf of the Government of Canada, Don Rusnak, member of Parliament for Thunder Bay-Rainy River, said, “Today we officially welcome grain transshipment at the Lakehead to Canada’s family of commemorative places, persons and events of national historic significance. The grain elevators built here at the Lakehead created a vital economic partnership that linked east and west.”

The FOGE continues to work on projects to preserve the history of the grain industry, including “Voices of the Grain Trade,” a series of interviews with 200 current and former members of the industry across Western Canada. For more information visit friendsofgrainelevators.org.

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