by Adriana Albi Davies, Ph.D.
The Rocky Mountains are North America's largest mountain system and comprise a significant portion of the border between Alberta and British
Columbia in the southern half of the two provinces.
At the time of Confederation in 1867, the mountains were a barrier to Canadian unity and needed to be traversed to unite all of Canada's regions and make the nation a reality. There are two significant mountain passes and these comprise important railroad and highway routes: the Kicking Horse Pass, to the south, and the Yellowhead Pass to the north. Opening them to people and commerce is a significant episode of bringing the west into Confederation.
The Rocky Mountains and foothill region is rich in coal deposits as well as deposits of metals, such as tin, in the interior of British Columbia. Thus, geology, the expansion of the railways, the settlement of the West- all worked together to spur immigration from various countries, including Italy, at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries. Italian immigrants began to come to Canada at the end of the 19th century and the trickle became a stream at the beginning of the 20th century. They came to work in the building of the railroads and other construction, to work in forestry camps and, then, moved into work in the mines and urban areas. Read the exciting account of the heritage of the region of the Rockies,
Nordegg, and the Coal Branch, and discover the personal stories of hard-working men and women in the following sections of the Celebrating Alberta's Italian Community website.