Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version



Published in Great Plains Quarterly 6:4 (Fall 1986). Copyright © 1986 Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska-Lincoln.


This volume is a collection of fifteen of the essays presented at a conference organized by the Glenbow Museum of Calgary, Alberta, where there is ample source material on the Canadian Pacific Railway. These essays give us something other than an account of the difficult work of exploring for and constructing the railway and of getting and maintaining financial and political support for it. They tell us how people were affected by the railway, how new communities were created, how the hopes of older ones were destroyed, how prairie agriculture and new industries like coal and oil were promoted, and how the CPR made Canada known and attractive to wealthy investors and travellers and poor emigrants from the old world.

Patricia Roy's article discusses the necessity of importing Chinese laborers to construct the railway in British Columbia, the causes of the high death rate among them, the inability of most of them to save enough to enable them to return home when the railway contractors and the province were ready to cast them aside as bits of "machinery" no longer needed. But most of her informative article is devoted to the origin and lasting effect of the movement to exclude Chinese immigrants from British Columbia and to provincial disputes with Ottawa on this question.