The Chinese Workers 

Many Chinese workers arrived in North America because of the Californian Gold Rush. The Chinese workers came from southern parts of China to find better opportunities. Back in China, they did couldn't grow enough goods to accommodate the growing population. Many areas were grasped by poverty and the citizens starved. When families heard about the opportunities that the Americas had to offer, they sent their strong youth to work in America and to send back money. But most families did not have enough budget to allow more then one child to work in North America.

When the Chinese workers arrived in America, they decided to pursue the California Gold Rush. The Californian Gold Rush made many rich beyond their imagination but many were still empty handed. After discovering that the Californian Gold Rush was almost at a end, the workers decided to move up to the Fraser Valley to participate in the Fraser Gold Rush of 1858.

After yet another Gold Rush, most Chinese workers were still looking for more fortune opportunities. The Canadian Pacific Railway needed workers to construct and lay out the tracks. This was dangerous work, often ending up killing many workers.When the Chinese heard about the pay, they were more then eager to start. The pay rate was about $0.75 to $1.00 per day. This was quite a sum considering the foreign exchange rate.

Even though lots Chinese workers already resided in Canada, a even larger portion of Chinese Canadians came to Canada to work on the railway. Over the period the the construction, approximately 17000 Chinese workers came to work on the railway. Despite working in more hazardous conditions and doing more dangerous work, the Chinese workers were still paid less then the white workers. The white workers did easier work and still were paid a higher wage. Their wage was approximately $1.50 to $2.00. A typical group of Chinese workers include a Caucasian foreman, a Chinese Translator, and many many workers.

The reason for this unfair treatment was that most of the Canadians had not met a Chinese man before the making of the railway. The Canadians the feared them for they were unknown to them. The Canadians gave them the most back-breaking work. The Chinese workers cleared and graded the railway's roadbed and blasted tunnels through rock. Their life was unbearable. Each day, families would wonder if their children would come back alive. Many died each day. Their diet was mainly rice and dried salmon washed down with flavourless tea. Their pay was usually so low that they hadn't enough to afford fresh fruit and vegetable so many workers got scurvy from lack of Vitamin C. 

The health care system for the Chinese were indescribable! The whites were treated for even minor injuries, but the Chinese were ignored. They had to rely on herbal cures (zhong yao) to cure diseases such as cold, or influenza. The white workers were compensated for deaths, and their families were comforted. When a Chinese worker died, he was buried by fellow workers beside the railroad. He was not reimbursed nor was his family comforted. In fact, most of the family members of the deceased worker had no knowledge of the death at all!

Yet through all of the conditions they faced, they continued to tread forwards. They always worked and never quit with dreams of fortune in their minds. As the Chinese workers laid more and more track, they were required to move along. This involved packing up their belongings, folding their tent, and walking more then 40 km, sometimes in harsh Canadian winters. They continued to work for many years until the railway was done in 1885.

After the railway was completed, many Chinese workers were looking for jobs. Most of them stayed in British Columbia and other nearby provinces. A few thousands went back to China with the money they had earned. For the workers that stayed, they became gardeners, grocers, cooks, servants, opened laundries, restaurants, and cafes. Some found mining and farming jobs in Alberta.


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