Chinese Legacies Exhibit
The Revelstoke Railway Museum would like to honour those of Chinese descent that worked on the Canadian Pacific Railway. On our mezzanine level we have created an exhibit on the history of the CPR’s involvement in using Chinese workers to build the railway in British Columbia. Chinese workers were a vital component for the Canadian Pacific Railway in British Columbia from 1880-1885, as they assisted in creating the stretch of railway that connected Port Moody to Craigellachie. Chinese workers were paid 75 cents-$1.25/day in comparison to white workers, that were paid $1-$2.50/day. The little money that was made by Chinese workers was sent back to their family members in China. These strong ties to kinship were of critical importance, as most Chinese workers entered Canada due to their kinship ties. Although, once they arrived in Canada, they were treated very poorly and they constantly faced derogatory remarks from newspapers and drawings that negatively depicted Chinese workers and Chinese immigration to British Columbia.
Chinese workers were forced to do the work that was too dangerous or too difficult for the white workers. Around 15,000 Chinese workers assisted in the construction of the railway, and of those at least 600 died but the actual death count could be as high as 2000. The Federal Government called for a specific death toll for every individual that died creating the railway, however it is tough to pinpoint just how many Chinese workers died due to Chinese deaths being excluded from official reports. The deaths of Chinese workers on the railway were often attributed to the nature of the tasks they were obligated to do. These tasks included clearing and grading the railway's roadbed, and blasting tunnels through the rock. There was also widespread fear among British Columbians' that Chinese workers would steal jobs away from the white workers due to the fact that Chinese workers were paid significantly less than white workers. This led to discriminatory policy undertaken by the Provincial Government of British Columbia to prevent Chinese peoples from having a voice in relation to the electoral process. The ‘British Columbia Qualifications of Voters Act’ was introduced in 1872. This legislation directly left out Chinese and Indigenous peoples from participating in Provincial elections.