The Ties That Bind: Building the CPR, Building a Place in Canada examines the struggle of the Chinese Canadian community to establish an identity and roots in Canada. Through archival evidence and research of the men who came from China to build the transcontinental railroad in the 1880s, and the use of oral testimony of their descendants, The Ties That Bind preserves a seldom told part of Canada's history.
The online virtual exhibit explores the history of the Chinese Canadians from their presence in Canada before Confederation and during the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway, through more than 60 years of legislated discrimination under the Head Tax and Exclusion Act, to the present.
The Ties That Bind project is made possible by the generous support of the Foundation to Commemorate the Chinese Railroad Workers in Canada, in partnership with the Multicultural History Society of Ontario, and Citizenship and Immigration Canada.
A full parliamentary apology to Chinese Canadians, delivered by Prime Minister Stephen Harper in the House of Commons on June 22, 2006, for the legislated discrimination that lasted generations nearly came too late.
Few head tax payers had survived to see justice done. History and simple arithmetic confirmed their ages at the time of the official apology at over 80 years, with the eldest aged 106. Elders in the Chinese Canadian community, marked by years of shame for the exclusion and discrimination they experienced, were reluctant to speak to their children about the bitterness of the past. They preferred to have their sacrifices recognized by better lives for their descendants.
Today, through The Ties That Bind and other similar projects, Chinese Canadians are reclaiming their history and having their contributions to the building of Canada recognized.