Was the Cana­dian Pa­cific Rail­way worth it?

Kayak (Canada) - - CONTENTS -

The Cana­dian gov­ern­ment forced many First Na­tions off their tra­di­tional lands so the rail­way could go through. If it weren’t for the CPR, how might the lives of peo­ple in those First Na­tions be dif­fer­ent now?

We can’t know for sure, of course, but with­out the CPR, there’s a good chance Bri­tish Columbia would never have joined Canada. The United States had its eye on what is now western Canada, and could very well have pushed north to take over huge amounts of ter­ri­tory. Canada might never have grown be­yond the At­lantic prov­inces, Que­bec and On­tario.

The CPR and other ma­jor Cana­dian rail­ways made it pos­si­ble for new­com­ers to the coun­try, of­ten Euro­peans with very lit­tle money, to set­tle in Man­i­toba, Saskatchewan and Al­berta. With a lot of hard work, they could cre­ate farms. The crops they grew could be sold in east­ern Canada be­cause of the rail­way, too.

The Chi­nese men who were brought to Canada to work on the CPR were usu­ally paid about a dol­lar a day, while oth­ers earned as much as $2.50. Chi­nese work­ers had to pay for their food and tents, but English-speak­ing work­ers didn’t. Af­ter the CPR was fin­ished,few of the Chi­nese men had enough money to go back home or to bring their fam­i­lies to Canada. Al­though the rail­way couldn’t have been built with­out them, they of­ten spent the rest of their lives poor and lonely. They couldn’t af­ford to pay the high fee, known as a head tax, that the Cana­dian gov­ern­ment would charge for each mem­ber of their fam­ily they brought to Canada.

To Pa­cific build the Rail­way, Cana­dian work­ers had to cut down count­less trees, blast rock and dig through moun­tains. How do you think that work af­fected birds, mam­mals, fish and their en­vi­ron­ment?

Chi­nese work­ers were not al­lowed to use the com­pany hospi­tal. If they were killed on the job, their fam­i­lies back home in China did not re­ceive any pay­ment.

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