The Unsung Hero, Chinese men

From the Toronto Railway Museum website:

“When British Columbia joined the union in 1871, Canada agreed to build a rail line all the way to the Pacific coast. This astonishing feat was accomplished in just over four years largely due to the Chinese railway workers. Between 1881 and 1885, over 17,000 Chinese men came to Canada to work as labourers on the construction of the western section of the transcontinental railroad. Chinese workers were mostly concentrated on a 250-mile section in British Columbia contracted out to Andrew Onderdonk. It appears that approximately 700 of them were killed in industrial accidents largely due to unsafe working conditions. Chinese labourers worked in harsh conditions and for less than half the pay of their white coworkers. There are no Chinese labourers in the famous Last Spike photo taken by Alexander Ross.

About The Chinese Railroad Workers Memorial

The Chinese Railroad Workers Memorial in Toronto was dedicated in 1989. It was built due to the efforts of Toronto businessman James Pon, then President of FCCRWC. The sculpture, designed by Eldon Garnet, depicts two life-sized workers precariously moving a beam into place to complete the construction of a railway trestle. The huge rocks at the base of the monument were transported to Toronto from Crowsnest Pass in the Rockies.”

Written on the memorial:

“Dedicated to the Chinese railroad workers who helped construct the Canadian Pacific Railway through the Rocky Mountains of Alberta and British Columbia thus uniting Canada geographically and politically.

From 1880 to 1885 seventeen thousand men from the province of Kwangtung, China came to work on the western section of the railway through the treacherous terrain of the Canadian Rockies. Far from their families, amid hostile sentiments, these men laboured long hours and made the completion of the railway physically and economically possible. More than 4,000 Chinese workers lost their lives during construction. With no means of going back to China when their labour was no longer needed, thousands drifted in near destitution along the completed track. All of them remained nameless in the history of Canada.”

We erect this monument to remember them. September, 1989”


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