The Mississauga Miracle


Around midnight on November 10th 1979, a Canadian Pacific freight train carrying a deadly cargo of butane, toluene, caustic soda, and chlorine derailed, caught fire, and exploded on the edges of Mississauga. The sky turned red as flames towered 40 stories high, and shock waves spread for 50 kilometers. 240,000 people were evacuated, an effort that remains the largest evacuation in Canadian history.  Astonishingly, no one was killed that night, and the event came to be known as the “Mississauga Miracle.”  But narrating this massive industrial disaster as the “Mississauga Miracle” obscures something that was in fact so starkly revealed by the plumes of chlorine gas that billowed into the eerily illuminated night sky: Mississauga is an exemplary site in the contaminated ecology of extractive capitalism, an ecology which is always also bound to projects of colonialism and state violence through industrial infrastructures that constitute “the sinews of war and trade” (Khalili 2020). Using both archival and ethnographic methods, this project takes the Mississauga Miracle as an anchor point from which to trace Mississauga’s the infrastructures of industrial harm through both place and time, developing an understanding not only of Mississauga, but of the infrastructural violence and toxicity of late capitalism from the underexplored vantage of a seemingly peripheral place, rather than the epicenters that are the focus of most previous work. Sophia Jaworski and Zoë Wool explore the toxic materiality of this ‘miracle’ in Four Movements of Diffusion Speculative Reflections on Toxicity and the Mississauga Derailment, in the Blackwood Gallery SDUK broadsheet. Students in Zoë Wool’s Anthropology of Toxicity class have also contributed to this project by creating StoryMaps about the event. 


Zoë Wool, Sophia Jaworski, Matthew Wilkinson, UTM Anthropology of Toxicity Students, Kai Abimelek


Four Movements of Diffusion | Mississauga Miracle StoryMap by UTM students

Funding & Support

Department of Anthropology, University of Toronto, Mississauga; Connaught New Researcher Award

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