In 1880, Onderdonk, the leader of Canadian Pacific Railroad construction, made some agreements with several Chinese gangs in Guangdong province of China. Through those contracts more than five thousand laborers were sent from China by ship. Onderdonk also picked up over seven thousand Chinese railway workers from California. These two groups of workers were the main force for the building of the railroad. Many of them caught diseases or died while planting explosives. Many others were injured or died because of construction accidents. By the end of 1881, the first group of Chinese laborers, which were previously numbered at five thousand, had only fifteen hundred or fewer who survived. After that, Onderdonk needed more workers, so he directly contacted some big Chinese firms to send many more workers to Canada.
Most of the Chinese workers lived in tents. These canvas tents were often unsafe and rocks fell during the night. Onderdonk paid Chinese workers only one dollar a day while white workers were paid five or six times that amount. The Chinese workers were also given the most dangerous jobs. They worked with explosives and carried huge rocks. Despite the contributions made by Chinese workers, the Canadian government passed a law in 1904 to increase the headtaxes (land fees) from 100 U.S. dollars to 500 U.S. dollars. Because of this law, the road of sending the Chinese workers was closed.