Lingjun Li (LIL1D1203)
February 13, 2013
Instructor: Dale McCartney
Chinese immigration to Canada: A History of Unremittingness
It is a tale of perseverance that the contribution Chinese put lots of effort in for Canada. From 1881 to 1884, over 15,000 Chinese men came to Canada. About 6,500 of these were employed directly by the Canadian Pacific Railways. For all intents and purposes, it should not be ignored that in the process of construction of CPR, Chinese immigrants suffered unfair treatment and even gave their lives during the execution of CPR and was discriminated against from the Canadian government and citizens. After the appearance of Asiatic Exclusion League, the circumstance of Chinese immigrants was getting worse. Chinese risked their lives to help build Canada’s railroad in the 1880s. But as soon as the work was gone, Canada just wanted them gone. It was the beginning of a provoking history for Chinese immigrants to Canada. Overseas Chinese formed Chinatown, or so a tradition of liberal discrimination studies has held. Chinese has been a victimized colony of the East in the West. Also, they struggled through the head tax, personal attack and job discrimination. But the Chinese in Canada persevered. And today, Chinese-Canadians are a main part of Canada’s multicultural society, forging their own cultural identities.
The railway was necessary to the settlement of the West and to fulfilling the third pillar Of Macdonald’s National Policy. Instead of hire white peoples, they rather choose Chinese migrant workers who got paid less than half of what white workers earned. Even more unfairly, the Chinese had to pay for their own food, clothing, and transportation to the job site, mail, and medical care, leaving barely enough money to send home. Chinese railroad workers often performed the most difficult and dangerous jobs. For instance, using simple tools and manual labour, they built roadbeds, bridges and tunnels along a route that spanned deep canyons and rivers and cut through hard granite mountains. The work was backbreaking. Furthermore, they moved an unimaginable amount of rock and gravel in pushcarts, and on shoulder poles. Many died when explosives were used, through tunnel collapses and other accidents. In order to reduce the budget, blasting was often done with cheaper explosive, rather than the more stable and expensive TNT dynamite, which the white workers used. Chinese worked under extreme conditions, sometimes clinging to the side of a steep mountainside or while suspended in the air by harnesses in the skeleton of a partially built bridge. Most of the Chinese railway workers came from the two southern coastal provinces of Guangdong and Fujian, the weather there are pretty good. The cold mountain weather caused quiet hardship for them. They suffered dreadfully from cold but they never evade from that bad situation or being lazy.
Not only their working environment startlingly but also their living condition. The Chinese railway workers lived in poor conditions, often in camps, sleeping in tents or boxcars. Because most could not afford fresh fruit and vegetables, many of the men suffered from scurvy, an agonizing disease caused by a diet lacking in vitamin C. Safety measures to protect Chinese workers from injury or death were non-existent. Lots of Chinese workers died from illness and risky work. Many men died through accidents at work sites. Blasting, in particular, killed workers who were crushed by collapsing tunnels and rock slides. Illnesses caused by sub-standard living conditions and crippling winter weather also took the lives of men. Despite the difficult work conditions and the weather, the Chinese men earned the reputation of being excellent workers.
After the Canadian Pacific Railway was completed, many Chinese were left with no work and no longer seen as useful to both the CPR and the Canadian government. The