General Description of Canada
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
"Canada is a country so vast that it is difficult to convey an adequate idea of its size ; so fertile that nothing short of official returns will exonerate a description of it from a charge of exaggeration ; so prosperous as to not only rival, but to surpass all other countries on the face of the earth ; so healthy in climate, so beautiful in scenery, so abundantly supplied with magnificent lakes and rivers, so full of commercial resources, and so rich in minerals, that I am overpowered with the magnitude of the task I have imposed upon myself in attempting to convey even a faint idea of it."—Haliburton.
THE Dominion of Canada occupies a position chiefly in the North Temperate Zone, though extending to the Arctic regions. Notwithstanding the fact that she has a southern frontier of some three thousand miles, she cannot truthfully be called " a country of length without breadth." This will be apparent when we remember that the south touches the 42nd degree of latitude, and that the northern coast is some two thousand miles north of this point. Neither are these northern regions barren wastes, as is sometimes supposed ; but to this we will refer later on. Suffice it to say, that wheat can be grown one thousand four hundred miles north of the latitude mentioned above, while a like distance, measured south of the 42nd parallel, would wholly traverse the breadth of the United States and terminate in the Gulf of Mexico. Within this vast space there is an area of some three million square miles, including a great variety of climate and products.
The territory of the Dominion for convenience may be divided into seven great natural sections determined by the drainage systems of the country. They may be styled as follows : The Gulf and Atlantic ; the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence, a continuation of the first ; Hudson Bay, east and west ; the Saskatchewan Valleys ; Mackenzie Basin ; the Pacific ; and the Yukon.
Each one of these great divisions is within the agricultural area to a greater or less extent, rich in many of the resources of nature, and fitted for permanent human habitation. Two of these sections, the Atlantic and the Lake, contain at pre-sent most of the population of the country; two others, the Saskatchewan and Red River basins, and the Pacific slope, have a moderate population, while the remaining are, with the exception of the Klondike region, almost without inhabitants.
Federal subdivisions—that is, the provinces and territories as at present constituted consist of nine perfectly autonomous provinces, and a number of organized and unorganized territories. The Maritime group embraces New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island. Then follow Quebec and Ontario, formerly Upper and Lower Canada, which, with the exception of Prince Edward Island, constitute the charter members of the Canadian federation. The remaining provinces are Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and British Columbia, representing the centre and extreme west, and representing also the prairie and mountain regions of the Dominion. The Yukon country has recently been organized as a separate federal territory, with a limited measure of self-government, and now has a representative in the Dominion Parliament. There still remain four large unorganized territories, as follows: Athabasca, Mackenzie, Keewatin, and Ungava. The Iarge and numerous islands of the Arctic Ocean are grouped under the name of the Franklin regions of the Dominion.
When we remember that this entire country, equal in area to the Continent of Europe, contains less population than the City of London, we are reminded of the words of Jean Blewett, concerning great regions in Canada: " Nothing breaks the monotony of these vast plains. No rancher's shack, no settler's cot, no man at the plough, no woman at the open door—nothing to lessen the weird effect of the greatness. No sound of life, no shock of hammer, no lowing of cattle, no cry of children at play, lifts the curtain of silence."
Though the leading physical features and resources of the country are to be treated in detail, the following may be stated by way of general description :
" In the year 1888 a special committee of the Canadian Senate entered into a thorough examination of the available evidence bearing upon the question of the agricultural, mineral and timber resources of that portion of this great North Land lying north of the Saskatchewan watershed, east of the Rocky Mountains, and west of the Hudson Bay. Before this committee were summoned Hudson Bay factors from as far north as Great Bear Lake, missionaries, travellers, voyageurs, trappers, members of geological survey parties, who had traversed portions of this great region, botanists and naturalists. From these various sources of information a mass of evidence was derived which was deemed sufficient to warrant the committee in arriving at the conclusion that the region north of the Saskatchewan watershed, and drained by the Athabasca, Peace River, Liard River, Slave River, and portions of the Hay River valley and the Mackenzie valley, possessed soil and climatic conditions that gave it adaptability for settlement and cultivation. The estimate formed by this committee was, that in the great region north of the Saskatchewan watershed, west of Hudson Bay and east of the Rocky Mountains, there were three hundred thou-sand square miles of land adapted to the growth of wheat; four hundred and seven thousand square miles, including the wheat area, adapted to the growth of barley and oats ; six hundred and fifty-six thousand square miles, including the wheat and barley area, adapted to the growth of potatoes and turnips, and eight hundred and sixty thousand square miles of good pasturage lands. This immense region contained great stretches of prairie land and extensive forests of spruce, poplar, balm of Gilead and Banksiana pine.
" South of the region covered by the investigations of this committee lies a great stretch of prairie country, including the Province of Manitoba and the new provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan, with a total area, south of the north water-shed of the Saskatchewan, roughly placed at two hundred and seventy thousand square miles. This region is within the wheat-growing belt, and gives, with the areas suitable for the cultivation of cereals north of the Saskatchewan watershed, a total in the Canadian North-West of five hundred and seventy thousand square miles adapted to the growth of wheat, and seven hundred and eighty thousand square miles adapted to the growth of barley and oats. Stated in acres, this would give a wheat area of 360,000,000 acres, and it is believed that 250,000,000 acres of wheat land in this region is a safe calculation.
" A bare commencement only has been made towards bringing the wheat lands of the Canadian Northwest under cultivation. Possibly one-eightieth part of the land well adapted to the growth of wheat has been brought under' the plough, and yet the export of wheat, mostly No. 1 hard, reaches about forty million bushels each year.
" As settlement extends northward, it is found that the rigor of the climate does not increase. At Prince Albert, on the Lower Saskatchewan, three hundred miles north of the latitude of Winnipeg, the wheat crop is less liable to injury from frost than in Southern Manitoba, and the yield is heavier. In the Edmonton region, on the North Saskatchewan, oats are said to yield one hundred bushels to the acre, and weighing forty pounds to the bushel. The extensive, buffalo grass region, extending along the eastern base of the Rocky Mountains, from the boundary line to the North Saskatchewan, is the finest ranching country in America. This great North-West region is rich in coal, gold, silver, topper, iron and petroleum, and the great forests north of the Saskatchewan will be of immense value in the future. The Upper Yukon Valley, within the bounds of Canada, has extensive pasture areas, and is one of the most productive gold fields in the world."
The general physical features of the Dominion are, in a measure, common to the continent, yet there is a sense in which they are distinctly Canadian. The grandeur of her mountains, the breadth of her prairies, the extent of her forests, her vast and numerous lakes ; the length, variety and beauty of her rivers, together with her countless islands, great and small, as well as her fiords and indentations, are all on a grander scale and in richer profusion than those of any other country. A glance at the map will show that this is particularly true with respect to our lakes and rivers and inland seas. It is said that Canada contains one-half of the fresh water of the globe.
Kipling came to Canada in winter and visited Quebec City when the snow was piled high. He has ever since called this country " Our Lady of the Snows." If he would come here in summer he might call it " Our Lady of the Lakes." The peculiar charm of Canada in summer is the mixture of land and water. We have innumerable lakes and rivers, and countless islands suitable for camping. Nowhere else in all the world is there such a land for summer enjoyment.
In Ontario the whole country, from the Great Lakes to the Hudson Bay, abounds in small lakes and rivers, and most of the lakes are beautified by the islands in them. Georgian Bay, cutting deep into the province, and almost dividing it in two, is full of lovely islands which charm the summer visitors.
Quebec Province has not the Great Lakes at the south, as Ontario has, but all the water of them flows through this province in the mighty volume of the St. Lawrence River, and mingles with the sea where mountains rise beside the water. Quebec owns a share of .Lake Champlain, has Lakes St. John and Mistassini, and there are small lakes scattered throughout the province from the international boundary to Hudson Bay.
New Brunswick is a land of mighty rivers that expand into lakes of rare beauty at many points. Sea-girt Nova Scotia has some pretty little lakes, and Cape Breton is not only surrounded by the sea, but has beautiful salt water lakes in its interior. No part of Prince Edward Island is distant from the sea, and there are great bays extending into the interior of the island. In the Maritime Provinces and the lower part of Quebec we have a wonderfully extensive coast line, where rare sea bathing can be obtained.
Manitoba has Lake Winnipeg, Lake Winnipegosis, Lake Manitoba, and some smaller lakes, while in the North-West the lake reservoirs of the Mackenzie and Churchill rivers almost rival in magnitude the Great Lakes that separate Ontario from the United States. In British Columbia there are many long, narrow and deep lakes lying in the valleys between the mountains, and regarding the inlets of the sea which break the coast-line of that magnificent province, Lord Dufferin once said :
" Such a spectacle as its coast-line presents is not to be paralleled by any country in the world.
Day after day for a whole week, in a vessel of nearly two thousand tons, we threaded interminable labyrinths of watery lanes and reaches that wound endlessly in and out of a network of islands, promontories and peninsulas for thousands of miles, unruffled by the slightest swell from the adjoining ocean, and presenting at every turn an ever-shifting combination of rock, verdure, forest, glacier and snow-capped mountains of unrivalled grandeur and beauty. When it is remembered that this wonderful system of navigation, equally well adapted to the largest line-of-battle ship and the frailest canoe, fringes the entire seaboard of the Province, and communicates, at points sometimes more than a hundred miles from the coast, with a multitude of valleys stretching eastward into the interior, while at the same time it is furnished with innumerable harbors on either hand, one is lost in admiration at the facilities for intercommunication which are thus provided for the future inhabitants of this wonderful region."