Monday, August 21, 2017

Tuesday Treasures

Pictorial Tuesday   Tom hosts Tuesday's Treasures.

August 2017 - Toronto ON

I thought this sculpture merited its own post.

Just south of Front St. on Navy Wharf Court is the Chinese Railroad Workers Memorial.

You could easily see this as part of my walk last week which also included a historical walk along King St. which includes more links to this walk.
Also in the area are these sculptures.

The Workers Memorial was funded by the Foundation to Commemorate the Chinese Railroad Workers in Canada, led by James Pon. In 2004, Pon told the Toronto Star his father had to pay a $500 head tax to bring him to Canada in 1922, and it took 17 years to pay off the debt. The Workers Memorial, including the trestle arch and sandstone blocks carved to represent the Canadian Rockies, was built in 1989 and designed by prominent Toronto artist Eldon Garnet. The bronze figures were cast by Francis LeBouthillier.

This scene would have been common across the country as workers built the Canadian Pacific railway from coast to coast in the 1800s.

Image result for toronto archives chinese railway workers

Estimates of how many Chinese workers died building the railroad vary widely.
The memorial puts the number at over 4,000.Workers died in landslides, cave-ins, from disease, drowning, and explosions. Blasting tunnels through the mountains of B.C. made it the most dangerous, time-consuming, and deadly section of the railroad. Around 15,000 Chinese workers were brought in between 1880 and 1885 to work on the railroad in B.C., mostly from southern provinces including Guangdong, and paid around half of what other workers made ($1 a day to the $2–$2.50 other labourers got). They faced racism from many in B.C., partly because workers were concerned that Chinese immigrants were willing to work for less, and discrimination from their supervisors on the railroad, who paid them little, forced them to buy supplies from the company store, gave them the most dangerous jobs, and gave them little access to healthcare.

This man stands high on top, directing the log with just a rope, pulling it up to build the next tie on a railroad.

Another man reaches up towards the large wooden log—big enough to crush him—and braces himself against the trestle.

Even those who survived building the railroad often couldn’t afford to return to China or bring their families to Canada. They were left without jobs in hostile territory. The railroad workers memorial notes that it also memorializes these men, saying, “With no means of going back to China when their labour was no longer needed, thousands drifted in near destitution along the completed track. All of them remained nameless in the history of Canada.”


  1. ...emigrates built both of our countries and have made them stronger. A knowledge of history is a valuable thing! Thanks Jackie for another piece of Toronto's fabulous art scene. I hope to see more in the future.

  2. The memorial is quite striking and vivid.

  3. An awesome memorial! I am glad to see that SOMEONE cared enough about their sacrifices made for our western needs to memorialize these hard working, honorable people!

  4. What a stunning, heart wrenching memorial!

  5. will have to take a look for this next time we're in the Toronto area. Very interesting sculpture and a great little history lesson.

  6. A poignant memorial to unnamed Chinese workers. Despite their horrid conditions and treatment, I hope they carried a sense of pride in their hearts for their contribution and sacrifice. Just goes to show, prejudice and discrimination knows no happens everywhere. Thank you for bringing this memorial to out attention. History is fascinating and we all have much to learn from it in order to make us better....ideally.


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