Bill and Sue-On Hillman

An Epic Struggle Across Three Centuries

This is their story and how they succeeded in spite of violent racism and ongoing discrimination.
*** Over 17,000 Chinese came to Canada from 1881 through 1884 to work as labourers on CPR's Trans-Continental Railroad. They encountered a hostile reception in British Columbia. The Chinese workers died in accidents, landslides, cave-ins, explosions and from disease, drowning, extreme weather, malnutrition, and lack of health care. Blasting tunnels through the mountains of B.C. made it the most dangerous, time-consuming, and deadly section of the railroad. They were paid around half of what other workers made ($1 a day to the $2–$2.50 paid to other labourers). Their supervisors on the railroad, in addition to paying them so little, forced them to buy supplies and food from the company store. They were assigned and did the jobs that other workers refused to do. One Chinese died for every mile of track laid down through the Rocky Mountains between Calgary and Vancouver.

*** Those who survived building the railroad often couldn’t afford to return to China -- nor were they allowed to bring their families to Canada. They were left without jobs in hostile territory. Thousands drifted in near destitution along the completed track. All of them remained nameless in the history of Canada. The Asian community met with further discrimination from the press, labour unions and politicians. This resulted in violent outbursts against them -- the worst of which was the Vancouver Race Riots.

*** The government rewarded them by imposing a $500 head tax and later banning Chinese immigration entirely with the passing of the Chinese Immigration/Exclusion Act.
Despite all the obstacles, the Chinese in Canada went on to serve in two world wars and to succeed beyond all expectations in all walks of Canadian life. This is their story. . .  and the story of generations to come.

Their Story:

PART I: Railroad Building and Discrimination

PART II: Successes

Six Related Photo and Art Albums


Chinese Head Tax Monument in Brandon
Plus Eight Feature Photo Pages:
1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8

My Story by Sue-On (Choy) Hillman

Visit to our Toisan Village 2017

Click for full-size collage

Visit to Sue-On's Birth Home in China
that she left when she was two years old

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Bill and Sue-On Hillman
Eclectic Studio