Rail­way re­cruits

Canada's History - - CURRENTS - — In­for­ma­tion cour­tesy of the McCord Museum

Chi­nese labour­ers, part of a Cana­dian Pa­cific Rail­way “work gang,” rest at their camp, erected along­side the tracks in Glacier Park, Bri­tish Columbia, in 1889. The build­ing of the rail­way would have suf­fered greatly with­out the labour of the ap­prox­i­mately ten thou­sand Chi­nese work­ers re­cruited by the Cana­dian govern­ment be­tween 1881 and 1884. Most of the re­cruited men came from the prov­ince of Can­ton, in south­ern China. Chi­nese work­ers were typ­i­cally paid one dol­lar per day, or about fifty to sev­enty-five cents less than their Cau­casian co-work­ers. Life as a rail­way worker was phys­i­cally de­mand­ing. The work­ers toiled in harsh weather amid rough ter­rain. Some jobs, such as han­dling the ni­tro­glyc­erin used to dy­na­mite rocks, were par­tic­u­larly deadly. Chi­nese work gangs were usu­ally or­ga­nized into groups of thirty work­ers and in­cluded a cook, a cook’s helper, and a per­son to keep track of the pay­roll. The work gangs op­er­ated through the spring and sum­mer, typ­i­cally shut­ting down in the late fall due to the in­creas­ing cold.


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