Canada - The Status of a Nation
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
In a general way reference has already been made to the area of the Dominion ; we will now make some more particular reference to this subject. This is a question concerning which even the native born have little adequate idea, to say nothing of the stranger both within and without our gates. It is quite an easy thing to say that Canada is a country containing some three million five hundred thou-sand square miles ; but who can have any adequate idea of these figures without further contrasts ? Let us, therefore, make a few comparisons, which may help us to take in the immensity of these figures, which merely express the superficial area in square miles.
It may help us when we say that Canada is larger than the United States with its fifty-one states and territories, and its eighty millions of people ; or that it is larger than Europe, wherein is the seat of twenty national governments, and twice that number of races and languages, spoken by four hundred millions of people. In Europe is the seat of nations, the home of civilization and commerce, setting pace for the rest of the world, and yet, all combined, only equal in extent the area of the Dominion. The ability to sustain human life in numbers and comfort is probably as great in Canada as in any other part of the world.
Again, as compared with the British Empire as a whole, Canada forms a large proportion. We, in common with other fellow-subjects of the crown of Britain, are wont to think with pride of the Empire on which the sun never sets, and wherein is included the great colonies and dependencies of national proportions. Canada, however, furnishes nearly forty per cent of this vast and magnificent Empire. England, which contains the largest portion of the United Kingdom, and which is not only the heart and soul of the British Empire, but also exerts a predominating influence in the affairs of the world itself by virtue of her commercial supremacy, is but a small speck when laid on the map of Canada. Even the United Kingdom is equalled in area by the Maritime Provinces and Newfoundland, or, as Mr. George Johnson points out, "While England, Wales and Scotland form together an area of eighty-eight thousand square miles, you could cut forty such areas out of Canada."
The united area of the Canadian lakes would make a sea in which the United Kingdom could still retain her insular character, with room enough for the Royal Navy to sail without danger of collision. The navigable rivers of Canada would make in their united length a waterway probably long enough to belt the globe.
The German Empire in Europe, with all its millions, could be contained fifteen times within our borders, while the land of the Bourbons and Napoleons could snuggle in the bosom of the Great Dominion with as much ease as her German sister.
In other words, each one of the countries named would make quite moderate provinces of the Dominion. Even European Russia, the home of the Slavic race, with her eighty millions, could be twice placed on Canadian soil and still be girdled by a good strip of Siberia. Little Denmark, that excels us in the British market, is about half the size of Nova Scotia. Belgium, Holland and Switzerland could nestle down in the single province of New Brunswick. The Province of Ontario would stretch from Paris to Copenhagen, while Quebec would cover the Russian provinces from St. Petersburg to the Ural Mountains; and British Columbia, placed east and west, would reach from Spain to Constantinople, and from the Mediterranean to the North Sea. " Surely no pent-up Utica is ours." These vast areas, with all their richness of nature strewn with a prodigal hand, must in time feel the throb of a mighty potency when, in proportion to her area, her population and industrial life shall have multiplie even to the quarter of that now found in Europe.
Speaking of the Prince of Wales' visit to Canada some years ago, the Weston, Eng., Mercury said " The Duke of Cornwall, during his visit to Canada,, has seen corn fields in which England could be lost; he has looked on forests that might build the navies of the world, if ships were still made of oak and pine; he has been carried through the mountain region where it is believed that more gold lies buried than has yet been taken from California and Australia. He has come from plains which seemed fitted to nurture tens of thousands of horsemen, the cavalry of a Tartar host; from that ` New Scotland,' indented with firths and bays, which should be the home of a great maritime population in the future. Canada needs only men to develop her vast resources. In all things else she has the materials of a mighty nation ready to her hand."
Though it is true that Canada is still in her in-fancy, so far as her possibilities are concerned, yet her progress during the past century has been great, and especially since Confederation.
" The majority of Canadian people are as yet confined to the old Acadian and Canadian provinces, which stretch from the Gulf of St. Lawrence to the head of Lake Superior. Still, within thirty years, a considerable population has flowed into the North-West, and the capital of Manitoba is now an enterprising, prosperous city, with over seventy thousand people. The population of the Dominion has increased twenty times since 1800, and consequently numbers about 5,600,000, of whom thirty per cent are French-Canadians.
" The total annual trade of imports and exports now realizes $470,000,000, an increase of $460,000,-000 in one hundred years. The revenue has reached $69,474,000, mainly made up of customs and excise duties. The people have deposited in Government savings banks about $85,000,000, apart from the large amounts deposited in the chartered banks, loan companies, and building societies. More than seventeen thousand miles of railway are in operation from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean. Up-wards of $400,000,000 is invested in cotton, woollen, wooden and other manufactures, while at the present time American capital is creating in the town of Sydney, in conjunction with the rich bituminous coal mines of Cape Breton, one of the largest iron industries of the continent. The shipping industry is very active, and fourteen lines of steamers call regularly at Montreal, which has a total population of nearly four hundred thousand, and must always be the commercial metropolis of the Confederation."
Though it is true development has been somewhat slow as compared with other parts of this continent, yet the progress made has been substantial, and even rapid, as compared with many nations of the Old World, and even with some states in the American Union, and there are not wanting evidences to justify Canada in assuming the status of a nation. In the matter of population alone Canada surpasses at least eight of the sovereign states of Europe, some of whom hold vast colonial possessions, and whose history and national foundations go back to remote ages.
Perhaps it may not be generally known that the purchasing power of the average Canadian is equal to fifteen of the inhabitants of some other countries. In other words, reckoned on this basis the commercial value or power of the Canadian people is equal to a population of eighty millions of some other nationalities. This fact should greatly enhance the value of the present population in the commercial world. Quality in this respect also is at least equal to quantity. The cities of Canada compare in population and splendor, in many respects, favorably with the chief cities of Europe or the United States of similar population. Perhaps no city in the world of similar age is so substantial in appearance or better equipped with magnificent buildings than the commercial metropolis of the Dominion. Many Canadians have risen to distinction, both at home and abroad, in the various walks of life, and have proven themselves the peers of any. The products of the land take a high place in the markets of the world, as is witnessed by the international exhibitions, as well as by the trade returns. Many of the industries of the country are of national importance, and compare favorably with the great enterprises of the world. The natural wealth of the Dominion, the beauty of our lakes and rivers, are all on a scale worthy of a great nation.
This is not only true of the natural products, but holds good with respect to other things. The railway systems of Canada are on a magnificent scale, and probably no people in the world have so many miles of railway to the population as have Canadians. At least one of these systems challenges our admiration in the difficulties overcome in its construction, as well as its vast extent and wealth. No railway system in the world under one management can compare with the Canadian Pacific. This, after traversing an entire continent, is supplemented on the Atlantic and Pacific by the best equipped ocean steamers afloat, making close and rapid connection with the most distant Orient. Thus we have in Canada the largest and best equipped transportation agency ever known to man.
There are in Canada about twenty thousand miles of railway. The roads were owned originally by one hundred and fifty-four companies, but by amalgamations and leases controlling influence is now in the hands of eighty-six companies and of the Government of Canada, which operates two roads-the Intercolonial and the Prince Edward Island Railway. Twenty-five million passengers are carried each year by the railways.
The system of Canadian canals is, perhaps, no less important than her railways, and, like them, are among the most extensive in the world. It is certain that no people have spent so much per capita for transportation purposes and the improvement of inland navigation as have Canadians.
The success which Canadians have achieved in the realm of industry and art they have proved themselves capable of attaining on the field of battle. More than once have Canadians been called upon to defend their country against an invading foe, and in these unhappy tasks they have proved themselves worthy of standing beside the trained soldiers of the Imperial Army. In recent years. also, in the defence of the Empire abroad, the soldiers of the King from Canada have proved themselves to be worthy sons of worthy sires. Paardeberg and Hart's River will ever be remembered in Canada's history as manifesting the valor of her sons on the field of battle.
Thus, in many departments of life in Canada nature's bounty and human worth and activity unite in such a manner as to give her a worthy claim to stand among the nations of the world, as well as to bespeak for her a high place, when, by the magnificence of her endowments, she comes to the zenith of her glory.