The Last Spike

“In 1885, the Canadian Pacific Railway was completed.  The driving of the last spike at Craigellachie, British Columbia, took place on the cold morning of November 7 at 9:22 a.m. This historical event was attended by a crowd of politicians and other dignitaries. Donald Alexander Smith, Canadian Pacific Railway director, raised and struck his hammer on the last iron spike, the greatest symbolic act of Canada’s national unity. The transcontinental railway, the backbone of the nation and the greatest engineering feat of its day, now joined the country “from sea to sea,” as in Canada’s national motto “A Mari Usque Ad Mare.

Not one Chinese labourer was invited to the ceremony even though three-quarters of the railway workers were Chinese. Their contribution to nation-building ended up as nameless entries in the history books until the Canadian government officially recognized their hard work and sacrifice almost one hundred years later. In 1980, Parliament passed a motion to acknowledge “the contribution made to the Canadian mosaic and culture by the people of Chinese background.”

Excerpted from The Chinese Community in Toronto: Then and Now by Arlene Chan, published by Dundurn Press. Copyright © 2013 by Arlene Chan

Image Credit: The Canadian Encyclopedia

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