Thursday, July 1, 2010
Holiday: Chinese Railway Worker's Memorial
Historian Dora Nipp of the Multicultural History Society of Ontario spoke at the re-dedication of the Chinese Railway Worker's Memorial in Toronto, Ontario on 1-July-2010
TORONTO, ONTARIO - Holidays are a time of tradition, and one of the many Canada Day traditions in Toronto is the annual re-dedication of the Chinese Railway Workers Memorial located next to the Union Station Rail Corridor just west of the Skydome (er, Rogers Centre).
Landy Anderson, a granddaughter of a Chinese railway worker and Executive Director of the Chinese Canadian National Council, served as the Master of Ceremonies for the re-dedication on 1-July-2010
The monument was constructed in 1989 to honour the more than 4000 Chinese workers who lost their lives building the Canadian Pacific in the Rocky Mountains in the 1880's, as well as those that survived but received little recognition for their efforts or welcome to Canadian society. Each year, leaders of a variety of historical and cultural groups gather to tell the stories that at best receive a brief mention in most history textbooks.
A pair of lions danced during the Chinese Railway Workers Memorial re-dedication in Toronto, Ontario on 1-July-2010
While the bulk of the ceremony was speeches from various perspectives, a lion dance broke up the progression, including a fight for lettuce. A wreath laying featured more wreaths than just about any other such ceremony I had ever seen, with wreaths contributed from every conceivable group from Heritage Toronto to the Chinese Consulate.
Only half the wreaths for the laying ceremony during the Chinese Railway Workers Memorial re-dedication were visible in this view on 1-July-2010
Most of the time, though, was taken up by speeches. It seemed everyone had an agenda to present of some kind, whether it be new texts available on Chinese history or the continued plight of Head Tax payers and their families. Perhaps the most politicized talks came from Member of Parliament Olivia Chow and John Cartwright of the Toronto and York Regional Labour Council, both of whom claimed that current temporary visa workers are in an analogous situation to the Chinese railway workers. Karen Sun, a city council candidate who actually avoided mentioning politics and her status while speaking on the behalf of the Chinese Canadian National Council's local chapter, seemed to inadvertently admit how tedious the process was becoming by addressing the crowd with a "good afternoon." It was still well before noon, even if it didn't feel like it.
John Cartwright, the President of the Toronto and York Region Labour Council, spoke at the Chinese Railway Workers Memorial re-dedication on 1-July-2010
After a long eighty minutes, by which time most of the audience had disbursed, the re-dedication was complete. It was time to move on to other Canada Day traditions.