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Transcript of Chinese Navvies
These men are called Chinese Navvies, or they were also called coolies. They came over from their homeland China, to work and build the Canadian Pacific Railway. They came over from 1878-1885, away from their families, friends and anything familiar to them. They were shipped over from China, on a steamboat to work in British Columbia.
Why are there only men?
Why are there only men? In that era, women were not employed as manual labour. The woman’s job was to care for the family in the home. It would be either too dangerous, or the women were judged as weaker, and smaller individuals. Men were considered strong, and were expected to work to help provide for their family. Women usually stayed home helping with the children, cooking, and sewing.
Why do they look so sad?
These men were treated horribly due to their backgrounds. They were paid a $.75 to $1.25 a day, which is less than the $1.50 offered to other workers. Their average pay in China per day was 7 cents. These hard workers were not paid during the three harsh winters when work was stopped. The Chinese men also had to pay for their own taxes ( due to head tax), tools, food, shelter, clothing, and any way of contacting, and sending money home. The men also had to pay for their own steamboat trip across from China. When the railroad was finished many of the men could not afford to return to China, and see their families after so many years, even though this was part of the original agreement.
The Danger of working on the Railway
The Chinese workers were the ones involved with using the dynamite to blast holes in the sides of mountains in the Rockies, in order for track to be laid. This work was very dangerous and many men lost their lives. Many men also were lowered down sheer cliffs to nail, holes into the side as well. These men also encountered sicknesses such as scurvy and other diseases. In the end at least 600 men died during the British Columbia portion of the railway.
To the left is the Canadian Pacific Railway. The building of the CPR railroad took many years but the main focus is on the part of the railroad from Ontario to British Columbia. It took 4 years of hard labor to build this section. There was so much death, sickness, and suffering throughout these years, more than we can possibly imagine.
Where they able to contact their family?
Were they able to contact their family? It would most likely cost some money to SEND money back to their families in China. They would have wanted to contact their families and therefore write to their wives to make sure they were okay, and wonder how their children are doing. Imagine having a wife that’s pregnant and having to leave your family for more than four years, and never seeing your child. It would be horrible not to see your newborn child, with their smiling faces.
It would hard to be in a country where your language isn't spoken or where they eat food that you aren't accustomed to.
Not A Care
The bosses the Chinese were working for did not care at all about the men. All they wanted was for this railroad to be finished so they could start shipping things, and trading things. In one of the pictures I saw was a rich looking man hammering in the last spike on the railway. Not a single Chinese man was to be seen in that last picture. Not at all what the people who were actually building the railway looked like.
What did these men eat? Or drink? These men cooked on open fires and therefore were limited to what they could cook. They were also limited by what foods they could afford.
History Textbook page- 229
The fictional narrative states in the second column, in the 3rd paragraph that they eat rice, salmon, and tea.
What type of sickness could these men get? Some of the main diseases were scurvy, due to lack of vitamin C, malaria, lice and malnutrition. These men were severely undernourished and lacking all forms of nutrients.
What did these men wear?
In the pictures many of them wore...
1.Hats to cover their faces from the hot sun
2.Large strong boots to protect their feet from the rough terrain
3.Gloves to cover their hands from rocks, and other tough objects they had to manhandle.
4.Long pants to cover their legs from possibly rocks, or if it would help prevent accidents.
5.Shirts to cover their arms, and most of their neck to protect them from the environment.
6.Overalls or jackets to prevent even more damage from the raging sun, and help to cover them from any dynamite explosions, and flying rocks and dirt.
All though they wore these clothes it still didn’t prevent death, and serious injuries. Working in the hot sun, and dirt can be very dangerous. Heat stroke was a serious concern. Dizzy spells, feeling faint, or becoming ill are just some of the side effects of working in the sun long and hard.
Text Book pg.228
Historian Pierre Berton reported the following from a journal kept by Henry Cambie, a CPR employee in British Columbia.
August 13- A Chinese drilling on the ledge of a bluff near Alexandra Bar is killed when a stone falls from above and knocks him off.
August 19- A log rolls over an embankment and crushes a Chinese to death at the foot of the slope.
September 4- A Chinese is killed by a rock slide.
September 7- A boat upsets in the Fraser and a Chinese is drowned.
September 11- A Chinese is smothered to death in an earth cave-in.
Berton also reports that the Inland Sentinel newspaper announced on September 9th,”there have been no deaths since the 15th of June.”
The box before just goes to show how much the Chinese were taken for granted. They were not appreciated at all. Their deaths weren’t even acknowledged. It was horrible how the Chinese were treated, and tell me one reason why the Chinese men were treated like this. They were Chinese. They were poor. They worked hard, and were cheap labour.
These men were treated like they were disposable. I’ve realized that these men where treated basically like slaves. They were given the most dangerous, and hardest work for the least amount of pay. The building of this railway killed many men, leaving their families basically broke, and with little means to support themselves.
By: Ella Qing Ru Moher
The Big Realization
In 2006 The Canadian Government apologized to the Chinese for the way they were treated. They weren't treated respectfully, and were given horrible living conditions and many, many Chinese men were killed.
They built this tunnel.
With dynamite and
James Pon (right), once forced to pay a controversial head tax, gives Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper in Ottawa on Thursday the last spike used in the Canadian Pacific Railway. -- Shanghai Daily
Life on the Railway
There were boys as young as 12 on the railway, serving as tea boys on the Chinese crews. Many men slept in two-or-three-story-high train cars. Sometimes tents were pitched with roofs. The food wasn't that good either. Along with missing their family, life on the railway wasn't as good as it seems. In the summer the weather reached up to 30°C, and if crews worked in the winter they had to suffer through temperatures of -40°C. And when you're working all day in the sun, or cold, you don't feel that good afterward.
What's a head tax?
The Chinese head tax was a fixed fee charged to each Chinese person entering Canada. The head tax was first levied after the Canadian parliament passed the Chinese Immigration Act of 1885 and was meant to discourage Chinese people from entering Canada after the completion of the Canadian Pacific Railway. The tax was abolished by the Chinese Immigration Act of 1923, which stopped all Chinese immigration except for business people, clergy, educators, students, and other categories.
Head Tax Apology
We acknowledge the high cost of the head tax meant many family members were left behind in China, never to be reunited, or that families lived apart and, in some cases, in poverty, for many years.
We also recognize that our failure to truly acknowledge these historical injustices has led many in the community from seeing themselves as fully Canadian.
Therefore, Mr. Speaker, on behalf of all Canadians and the Government of Canada, we offer a full apology to Chinese Canadians for the head tax and express our deepest sorrow for the subsequent exclusion of Chinese immigrants.
On June, twenty-second, 2006 Prime Minister, Stephen Harper made an official apology to the Chinese apologizing for the Head Tax.
Also this tax wasn't taken away until 1923, which is very sad.
For every mile...
There was a popular saying, which was "For every mile of railway laid, a navvie died."
If you still need any more info you can check out this book...
The Railway Navvies: A History of the Men Who Made the Railways
By: Terry Coleman
So definitely check out some of these websites to learn more!
Thank you So much for watching!
By: Ella Qing Ru Moher