The history of the Canadian Pacific Railway is well known to have solidified the rise of British Columbia, and Vancouver in particular, as a prosperous region in post-colonial Canada. More than linking the country from sea to sea, it also played a symbolic role in cementing the West Coast as an integral part of the nation. However, the contribution of Chinese workers to the railroad construction, and the legacy of their descendants, has for a long time been a relatively unheralded aspect of our city’s past.
The Ties that Bind: Building the CPR, Building a Place in Canada is an online virtual exhibit that aims to change that. The website explores the history of Chinese Canadians from their presence in Canada before Confederation, through more than 60 years of legislated discrimination under the Head Tax and the Exclusion Act. Utilizing archival evidence and research of the men who came from China for employment under the railroad,Ties that Bind attempts to serve justice for the descendants of head tax payers and the Chinese-Canadian community at large. Many second or third generation Chinese Canadians remain largely unaware of the perilous circumstances and hardships of their ancestors; hopefully this project will shed some light on a difficult and obscure issue in our country’s past.
The site, created and built by Brad Lee, also possesses an audio gallery and a teacher’s guide for educational purposes. Check out the site here!