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Parliamentary Secretary’s statement on Chinese Railroad Workers Memorial Day

CANADA, July 1 - Mable Elmore, Parliamentary Secretary for Anti-Racism Initiatives, has released the following statement for Chinese Railroad Workers Memorial Day:

“Between 1881 and 1884, more than 17,000 Chinese railroad workers came by ship from California and China to build the Canadian Pacific Railway. During construction, Chinese railroad workers were given the most difficult, dangerous tasks. It is estimated that three Chinese workers died for every mile of track laid. While white workers were paid $1.50 to $2.50 per day with their provisions provided, Chinese workers were paid only $1 a day and had to pay for their own gear and food.

“The mistreatment of Chinese Canadians continued throughout the turn of the century. On July 1, 1923, pressured by the B.C. government, the federal government enacted the Chinese Immigration Act (often referred to as the Chinese exclusion act), which barred nearly all people of Chinese descent from entering the country. The act was in place for 24 years. It left many people separated from their families; some were never reunited. In 2006, the Government of Canada apologized for the injustices caused by the act.

“This piece of Canadian and B.C. history cannot be forgotten. That’s why today, as we mark Canada Day, we also remember the sacrifices of the many Chinese Canadians who were hurt by this racist piece of legislation and the long-lasting impacts the Chinese Immigration Act has on the Chinese Canadian community. 

“While we have come a long way in 100 years, racism and anti-Asian hate still exists in B.C. We all have a role to play in addressing racism, and it starts by learning about the history of the province and the injustices many racialized communities and Indigenous Peoples faced and continue to experience today. 

“The Province is working to develop new anti-racism legislation to be introduced in 2024. Building off the Anti-Racism Data Act, which aims to identify systemic racism through the collection of race-based data, the upcoming legislation will hold government accountable for addressing the gaps and barriers in government services and providing supports for those negatively affected by racism.

“Today, the country’s first Chinese Canadian museum opens to the public. The Province has invested more than $48.5 million in the museum to support the Chinese Canadian community in telling their stories and providing a space for everyone to learn more about the contributions and experiences of Chinese Canadians.

“I would encourage all British Columbians to take some time to remember the Chinese railroad workers and the families who were impacted by the Chinese Immigration Act. To ensure the racism and discrimination that Chinese settlers experienced never happens again, we must all commit to standing up against racism and building a better, more inclusive province.”

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