Karin Lee/Jan Walls/David Choi/Julia Ningyu Li DVD 48 min. 1998
This documentary, released for distribution in November 2000, delves into the history of the Chinese workers without whom Canada’s national railway could never have been realized. In a climate of racial tension, 17,000 Chinese workers were hired so the railway could be completed on time. Assigned the dirtiest, most dangerous tasks, they received half the wages of white labourers, and were denied the food and lodging provided to their white counterparts. Hundreds of Chinese labourers lost their lives as construction pushed through the treacherous mountains of British Columbia. For those who survived, prospects did not improve after the railroad’s completion in 1885 due to poverty and the introduction of the head tax which kept families apart. This film includes interviews with Chinese-Canadians whose parents and grandparents built the railroad - and indeed the nation - give life to this poignant documentary that retells and rethinks a vital chapter in Canada’s history.