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The Ties That Bind virtual exhibition rewrites Canada’s official history

The Ties That Bind virtual exhibition rewrites Canada’s official history

TORONTO, August 25, 2010 – Chinese Canadians are making history with a more inclusive interpretation of Canada’s official story in a new online exhibit that draws attention to their contributions in achieving the national dream – the building of the Canadian Pacific Railway.

Nearly 125 years since the driving of the “Last Spike” that completed the main line of the CPR, a dozen descendants of Chinese railroad workers are now sharing their family stories about the building of the railroad, and settling in Canada, in The Ties That Bind: Building the CPR, Building a Place in Canada.

“The Ties That Bind project corrects the historical inaccuracy and omission of Chinese Canadians’ role in building this country,” says project curator Brad Lee.

The project is sponsored by the Foundation to Commemorate the Chinese Railroad Workers in Canada (FCCRWC), in partnership with the Multicultural History Society of Ontario (MHSO), with funding from Citizenship and Immigration Canada under the Community Historical Recognition Program (CHRP).

“Revisiting and rethinking our common past delivers insight into what it means to be Canadian, and creates a stronger sense of belonging for those who have previously been left out of the telling of Canada’s official history,” says James Pon, chairman of the FCCRWC.

The Ties That Bind recounts the history of the Chinese Canadians from before Confederation, through the building of the railway and subsequent decades of legislated discrimination, through the Head Tax and Chinese Exclusion Act, and two world wars to the present.

“This is a look at Canada’s history through the lens of the Chinese Canadian community,” says Andy Mark, interim executive director of the Chinese Canadian National Council Toronto Chapter. “It explores further and challenges the conventional version of our people’s history in this country.

“Finally, those early Chinese pioneers and their descendants can take ownership of their place in Canadian history,” Mark added.

Extensive archival research, by curators Brad Lee and Angela Wood, and oral testimony of 13 Chinese Canadians from across Canada – all of whose family stories in Canada begin during the era of the building of the CPR – are combined in a multi-layered historical account of the Chinese Canadian experience. Interviewees for The Ties That Bind were identified in Vancouver, Calgary and Toronto, though many of their family stories occur in other parts of Canada.

Visitors to The Ties That Bind website will rediscover Canada’s history from the perspective of Chinese Canadians, and will be able to examine visual and audio artifacts in an extensive Image Gallery and Audio Gallery.

A Learning Resources section, with Teacher’s Guide, Lesson Plans and Resource Material link, has also been developed for educators and students, targeting grade levels 7 to 12 in classrooms across the country.

Brad Lee, Curator, at 416-399-9850
James Pon, Chairman of the Foundation to Commemorate the Chinese Railroad Workers in Canada, at 416-233-7201
Winston Loui, Project Manager, member of the Multicultural History Society of Ontario, at 416-962-86

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