Canadian Pacific Railway Company

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The Canadian Pacific Railway Company (CPR) was formed to give British Columbia rail connections with the eastern provinces. Building the CPR was one of the most formidable tasks in the history of railroad construction, especially building the line north of Lake Superior and driving the railroad through the Rocky Mountains and the ranges beyond them. Both tasks were accomplished and the railroad was completed five years earlier than the contract required, on 7 November 1885. The Confederation of Canada was consolidated, and the CPR was ready to begin its world transportation service.

The CPR played a very important role in the history of the Canadian Mennonites. When the Bolsheviks came to power in Russia in October 1917, their political and economic dictatorship brought starvation to millions of Russians and persecution to the church. The Mennonites of Russia turned to their coreligionists in North America for help. In America the Mennonite Central Committee and in Canada the Canadian Mennonite Board of Colonization were organized. In the early 1920s the Canadian Mennonite Board of Colonization approached the CPR with a proposal to move Mennonites from Russia to Canada on credit. This request was granted by the CPR, and from 1923 to 1930 over 21,000 Mennonites came, most of them on credit. This was a unique undertaking in the 400-year history of the Mennonites; a private business concern extended a credit of over 1.5 million dollars, without any security, to impoverished people for their transportation from Soviet Russia.

In the 1930s, the CPR and the Canadian Mennonite Board of Colonization renegotiated the debt, which, with the interest accrued, now totaled $1,767,398.68. The CPR agreed to cease charging further interest and, if the entire debt were repaid, to hold the $180,000 already paid in interest in a Special Suspense Account for future transportation needs of refugees under the auspices of the Canadian Mennonite Board of Colonization. The last of the debt was finally paid off to the CPR in November 1946. The CPR continued to hold the $180,000 in credit for the Board until 1951, when $125,390.68 of the total was used for the transportation of 703 Danzig and Prussian Mennonite refugees.


Hedges, J. B. Building the Canadian West. N.Y.: Macmillan, 1939.

Innis, H. A. A History of the Canadian Pacific Railway. London: P.S. King, 1923.

Regehr, T. D. Mennonites in Canada 1939-1970: a People Transformed. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1996.

Author(s) Cornelius F Klassen
Date Published 1953

Cite This Article

MLA style

Klassen, Cornelius F. "Canadian Pacific Railway Company." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1953. Web. 23 Jul 2024.

APA style

Klassen, Cornelius F. (1953). Canadian Pacific Railway Company. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 23 July 2024, from


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 1, p. 509. All rights reserved.

©1996-2024 by the Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. All rights reserved.