OPINION: The ‘iron road’ that brought ruin and death – by Stephen Maher (MACLEAN’S Magazine – February 17, 2020)


As tempers flare over rail protests and talk of the rule of law, consider the history of the CPR

Ask Canadians to describe their country and they talk about public health care and hockey, military valour on European battlefields, peacekeeping and multiculturalism.

But most industrialized countries have public health care, some better than ours. Lots of countries play hockey. Most societies have stories they tell themselves about military glory. Many countries do more to keep the peace around the world than we do.

If you were to describe this country to someone who had never heard of it, it would be accurate to describe Canada as a country built around a railway—the Canadian Pacific Railway—on land taken by force from Indigenous people.

“There was a time in this fair land, when the railroad did not run, when the wild majestic mountains stood alone against the sun,” sang Gordon Lightfoot. “Long before the white man and long before the wheel, when the green dark forests were too silent to be real.”

Before the CPR, which allowed people, mostly from Ontario, to settle the plains, when white people travelled West, they did so as traders and explorers, living among Indigenous people on their sufferance. It was a complicated relationship, often violent, but it was not a relationship between masters and servants.

For the rest of this column: https://www.macleans.ca/opinion/the-iron-road-that-brought-ruin-and-death/

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