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The Ties That Bind: media release

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

TORONTO, August 28, 2010–Chinese Canadians make history today with the official launch of the online exhibit The Ties That Bind: Building the CPR, Building a Place in Canada (www.mhso.ca/tiesthatbind) that creates a more inclusive understanding of Canada’s story.

“We are very proud today to unveil The Ties That Bind, a historical research project that finally recognizes the contributions of the Chinese Canadian community to the building of Canada – and writes them into the history books,” says project co-curator Brad Lee.

Nearly 125 years since the driving of the “Last Spike” that completed the main line of the Canadian Pacific Railway, a dozen descendants of Chinese railroad workers share their family stories through oral history testimony in the online virtual exhibit. 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.

“Learning about the role of Chinese Canadians in Canadian history validates students of other cultural backgrounds,” comments co-curator Angela Wood. “This history is extremely important because it exposes the warts and blemishes of past eras and how things have progressed, leading to Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s official apology to Chinese Canadians in 2006 for decades of discrimination.”

The Ties That Bind is a multi-layered, educational online resource that includes a complete Learning Resource section for teachers and students, as well as personal audio and text-based accounts from descendants of the Chinese labourers who helped build the CPR, described by the Prime Minister in his apology as “the most important nation-building enterprise in Canadian history.”

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 to create a content-rich experience for visitors to the website, at www.mhso.ca/tiesthatbind. 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.

“Being part of The Ties That Bind project was an eye-opening and, at times, a very emotional experience,” says Kelly Oxtoby, visual communications designer. “Our creative team brought unique qualities and perspectives to this project, which resulted in this exciting and groundbreaking community-based website.”

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).

“This is the story of the sheer resilience of a community – first by simply surviving racist laws, then by raising and educating their children and thriving, and finally by mobilizing to oblige Parliament to apologize and give substantive redress,” says Susan Eng, Vice-President, Advocacy, at CARP, and a long-serving social justice advocate. “This persistence took generations and continues in the re-telling of our history in this country – this time from our own point of view.

“This continues our role in building Canada’s history.”

“We welcome all Canadians, indeed anyone across the globe who has access to the Internet, to visit our website, The Ties That Bind: Building the CPR, Building a Place in Canada, and to learn about this important part of Canada’s history from the descendants of railway workers themselves,” says project manager Winston Loui.

PLEASE VISIT US AT: www.mhso.ca/tiesthatbind

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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