How did the Canadian Pacific Railway impact our ideals and beliefs around multiculturalism?

The Canadian Pacific Railway, or the CPR for short, was a transcontinental railroad built in the mid-1800’s to connect British Columbia with the rest of Canada and to accomplish an ocean-to-ocean nation, creating unity among every province in between. Although the positive outcomes of this railroad heavily benefitted the population as a whole, several negative aspects surround the construction of the railroad. From what I knew before research, the CPR was just a railroad spanning North America and probably had little influence on my life. Little did I know, this company contributed to the foundations and future of Canada. With such importance, it is vital to understand the pros and cons in the history of the CPR and how it has shaped our world today.

ads2-04bBack in the mid 1800’s, the main reason for constructing the railroad was to create a unified and independent Canada. Many groups of Canadians benefited from the Canadian Pacific Railway. After the railway was constructed, business in Canada took off. British Columbia would enter Confederation, provinces could trade with other provinces, Canadians and settlers could efficiently travel to many places in Canada, and communication sources such as mail were possible. The railway also created thousands of jobs for Canadian workers constructing it. But, a group of Canadians that were not benefited from the railway were the Aboriginals. The railway brought on many negative effects for the Aboriginals and their land. First of all, after it was constructed, the Canadian Pacific Railway opened up the West. This meant a lot more settlers were able to reach and settle in the North West Territories, taking the Aboriginals land and living on it. The increased settlers then forced Aboriginals who hadn’t yet agreed to a treaty to join one, which basically tricked them into giving up most of their land but guaranteed them a reserve and food that wouldn’t be taken away by the settlers. But, as the railroad was being built, it looked like the tracks were going to pass right through the Aboriginals’ reserves as well. This caused an uprise within the Aboriginal peoples and almost started a war between them, the railroad, and the government. These results showed that in the plan of building the CPR, the government considered all the provinces but ignored the Aboriginals and how it might affect them, causing the railway to negatively affect the Aboriginals in the end. Another reason many people supported the construction the Railway was to promote unity and a bond between the citizens of Canada and prevent an internal conflict similar to the Civil War in the states. However, their efforts proved to be counterintuitive.

Now, the question comes up; can someone or a group of people be blamed for sticking to the ideas and beliefs popular at the time? I infer that people at that time opposed multiculturalism. In the society they lived in, everything was black or white and when different ideas emerged, it led to conflict and disputes among both/multiple parties. The idea of unity meant having the same beliefs and views so, at any given point, everyone would back the same horse. Contrary to the past ideologies, we as Canadians find unity in our differences. We have changed a lot since then especially our values as humans but one thing remains the same, that as a country we strive to be unified. Although the railroad isn’t as significant in our lives as it used to be, it has helped us understand and learn from the past as well change for the better.