Canada - Foundation For Hope
( Originally Published 1915 )
CANADA at the opening of the twentieth century has the same population as the United States at the opening of the nineteenth century. Has the Dominion any material justification for her high hopes of a world destiny? Switzerland possesses national consciousness to an acute degree. Yet Switzerland re-mains a little people. What ground has Canada for measuring her strength with the nations of the world? Having remained almost stationary in her national progress from 1759 to 1859, what reason has she to anticipate a progress as swift and world-embracing as that which forced the United States to the very fore-front of world powers? It takes something more than high hopes to build empire. Has Canada a foundation beneath her high hopes? No nation ever had a more passionate patriotism than Ireland. Yet Ireland has lost her population and retrogressed. Why will the same fate not halt and impede Canada?
It may be acknowledged here that Canadians have no answers for such questions and short shift for the questioner. They are too busy making history to talk about it. It is only the woman insecure of her social position who prates about it. It is only the nation uncertain of herself that bolsters a fact with an argument. Canada is too busy with facts for any flamboyant arguments. It is an even wager that if you ask the average well-informed business man in Canada how many miles of railways the Dominion has, he will answer on the dot "almost thirty thousand." But if you ask if he knows that Germany, for instance, with nine times denser population has barely twice as much trackage no, your Canadian business man doesn't know it. He is too busy building his own railroads to care much what other nations are doing with theirs. Likewise of the country's trade increasing faster al-most than the Dominion can handle it. He knows that imports have increased one hundred and sixty-three per cent. in ten years, and that exports have increased almost fifty per cent. ; but he doesn't realize in the least that the Dominion with seven million people has one-fourth as large a foreign trade as the United States with a hundred million people. He knows that immigration has in ten years jumped from 49,000 a year to 402,000; but does he take in what it means that his country with only five million native born is being called on to absorb yearly a third as many immigrants as the United States with eighty million native born? He has been so busy handling the rush of prosperity that has come in on him like a tidal wave that he has not had time to pause over the problems of this new destiny--the fact, for in-stance, that in two more decades the newcomers will outnumber the native born.
Unless the edifice be top heavy, beneath it all must be the rock bottom of fact. Beneath the tide is the pull of some eternal law. What facts is Canada building her future on? What pull is beneath the tide of four hundred thousand homeseekers a year? What has doubled population and almost doubled foreign trade?
It is almost a truism that the farther north the land, the greater the fertility, if there be any fertility at all. There is first the supply of unfailing moisture, with a yearly subsoiling of humus unknown to arid lands. Canada is supersensitive about her winter mate the depth and intensity of the frost, the length and rigor of her winters ; but she need not be. It should be cause of gratitude. Frost penetrating the ground from five to twelve feet as it does in the Northwest guarantees a subterranean root irrigation that never fails. Heavy snow let us acknowledge frankly snow sometimes banks western streets the height of a man means a heavy supply of moisture both in thaw and rain. There is second the long sun-light. An earth tilted on its axis toward the sun six months of the year gives the North a sunlight that is longer the farther north you go. When the sun sets at seven to eight in New York, it sets at eight to nine in Winnipeg, and nine to ten in Athabasca, and only for a few hours at all still farther north. It is the long sunlight that gives the fruit of Niagara and Quebec and Annapolis its "fameuse" quality; just as it is the sunlight that gives western fruit its finest coloring, the higher up the plateau it is grown. It is the long sunlight that gives Number One Hard Wheat its white fine quality so indispensable to the millers, So of barley and vegetables and small fruits and all that can be grown in the short season of the North. What the season lacks in length it gains in intensity of sunlight. Four months of twenty-hour sunlight produce better growth in some products than eight months of shorter sunlight.
These two advantages of moisture and sunlight, Canada possesses.* What else has she? It doesn't mean much to say that Canada equals Europe in area and that you could spread Germany and France and Austria and Great Britain over the Dominion's map and still have an area uncovered equal to European Russia. Nor does it mean much more to say that in Canada you can find the climate of a Switzerland in the Canadian Rockies, of Italy in British Columbia, of England in the maritime provinces and of Russia in the Northwest. Areas are so great and diverse that you have to examine them in groups to realize what basis of fact Canada builds from.
Girt almost round by the sea are the maritime provinces Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick in area within sixty seven square miles of the same size as England, and in climate not unlike the home land. Your impression of their inhabitants is of a quiescent, romantic, pastoral and sea-faring people sprung from the same stock as the liberty seekers of New England, untouched by the mad unrest of modern days, conservative as bed-rock, but with an eye to the frugal main chance and a way of making good quietly. They do not talk about the simple life in the maritime provinces because they have always lived it, and the land is famed for its diet of codfish and its men of brains. Frugal, simple, reposeful living the kind of living that takes time to think as sent out from the maritime provinces more leaders of thought than any other area of Canada. It is a land that leaves a dreamy memory with you of sunset lying gold on the Bras d' Or Lakes, of cattle belly-deep in pasture, of apple farms where fragrance of fruit and blossoms seem to scent the very atmosphere, of fisher-men rocking in their smacks, of great ships plowing up and down to sea. You know there are great coal mines to the east and great timber limits to the north; you may even smell the imprisoned fragrance of the yellowing lumber being loaded for export, but it is as the land of winter ports and of seamen for the navy that you will remember the maritime provinces as factors in Canada's destiny.
When gold was discovered in the Yukon and a hundred million dollars in gold came out in ten years, the world went mad. Yet Canada yearly mines from the silver quarries of the sea a harvest of thirty-four million dollars, and of that amount, fifteen million dollars comes from the maritime provinces.* Conservationists have sung their song in vain if the world does not know that the fisheries of the United States have been ruthlessly depleted, but here is a land the area of England whose fisheries have increased in value one hundred per cent. in ten years. It is not, however, as the great resource of fisheries that the maritime provinces must play their part in Canada's destiny. It is as the nursery of seamen for a marine power. No southern nation, with the exception of Carthage, has ever dominated the sea ; partly for the simple reason that the best fisheries are always located in temperate zones, where the glacial silt of the icebergs feeds the finny hordes with minute infusoria ; and the fisherman's smack the dory that rocks to the waves like a cockle-shell, with meal of pork and beans cooking above a chip fire on stones in the bottom of the boat, and rough grimed fellows singing chanties to the rhythm of the sea-the fisherman's smack is the nursery of the world's proudest merchant marines and most powerful navies. Japan knows this, and encourages her fisher-men by bounties and passage money to spread all over the world, and Japanese to-day operate practically all the fisheries of the Pacific. England knows this and in the North Sea and off Newfoundland protects her fishermen and draws from their ranks her seamen-Japan dominates seventy-two per cent, of the commerce of the Pacific, not through chance, but through her merchant marine built up from rough grimed fellows who quarry the silver mines of the sea. England dominates the Seven Seas of the world, not through her superiority man to man against other races, but through her merchant marine, carrying the commerce of the world, built up from simple fisher folk hauling in the net or paying out the line through icy salty spray above tempestuous seas. No power yet dominates the seas of the New World. The foreign commerce of the New World up to the time of the great war was carried by British, German and Japanese ships. Canada has the steel, the coal, the timber, the nursery for seamen. Will she become a marine power in the New World? It is one of her dreams. It is also one of England's dreams. No country subsidizes her merchant liners more heavily than Canada* in striking contrast with the parsimonious policy of the United States. It is Canada's policy of ship subsidies that has established regular merchant liners all liable to service as Admiralty ships to Australia, to China, to Japan and to every harbor on the Atlantic.
Whether heavy subsidies to large liners will effect as much for a merchant marine for Canada as numerous small subsidies to small lines remains to be seen.
The development of seamen from her fisheries is one of the dreams she must work out in her destiny, and that leads one to the one great disadvantage under which Canada rests as a marine power. She lacks winter harbors on the Atlantic accessible to her great western domain, whence comes the bulk of her commerce for export. True, the maritime provinces afford those harbors Saint John and Halifax. A dozen other points, if need were, could be utilized in the maritime provinces as winter harbors ; but take a look at the map ! The maritime provinces are the longest possible spiral distance from the rest of Canada. They necessitate a rail haul of from two to three thousand miles from the west. What gives Galveston, New Orleans, Baltimore, Buffalo preeminence as harbors? Their nearness to the centers of commerce their position far inland of the continent, cutting rail haul by half and quarter from the plains. Montreal has this advantage of being far inland; but from November to May Montreal is closed ; and Canadian commerce must come out by way of American lines, or pay the long haul down to the maritime provinces. There can be no doubt that this disadvantage is one of the factors forcing the West to find outlet by Hudson Bay where harbors are also closed by the ice but are only four hundred miles from the wheat plains. There can also be no doubt that the opening of Panama will draw much western commerce to Europe by way of the Pacific.
When one comes to consider Quebec under its new boundaries, one is contemplating an empire three times larger than Germany, supporting a population not so large as Berlin.* It is the seat of the old French Empire, the land of the idealists who came to propagate the Faith and succeeded in exploring three-quarters of the continent, with canoes pointed ever up-stream in quest of beaver. All the characteristics of the Old Empire are in Quebec today. Quebec is French to the core, not in loyalty to republican France, but in loyalty to the religious ideals which the founders brought to the banks of the St. Lawrence three centuries ago. Church spire, convent walls, religious foundations occupy the most prominent site in every city and town and hamlet of Quebec. From Tadousac to Montreal, from Labrador to Maine or New Hampshire, you can follow the thread of every river in Quebec by the glitter of the church spires round which nestle the hamlets. No matter how poor the hamlet, no matter how remote the hills which slope wooded down to some blue lake, there stand the village church with its cross on the spire, the whitewashed house of the curé, the whitewashed square dormer-windowed school.
Outside Quebec City and Montreal, Quebec is the most reposeful region in all America. What matter wars and rumors of wars to these habitants living under guidance of the cure, as their ancestors lived two hundred years ago? They pay their tithes. They attend mass. At birth, marriage and death the cure is their guide and friend. He teaches them in their schools. He advises them in their family affairs. He counsels them in their business. At times he even dictates their politics ; but when you remember that French is the language spoken, that primary education is of the slimmest, though all doors are open for a promising pupil to advance, you wonder whether constant tutelage of a benevolent church may not be a good thing in a chaotic, confused and restless age. The habitant lives on his little long narrow strip of a farm running back from the river front. He fishes a little. He works on the river and in the lumber camps of the Back Country. He raises a little tobacco, hay, a pig, a cow, a little horse and a family of from ten to twenty. When the daughters marry as they are encouraged to do at the earliest possible age the farm is subdivided among the sons ; and when it will subdivide no longer, there is a migration to the Back Country, or to a French settlement in the Northwest, where another curé will shepherd the flock ; and the habitant, blessed at his birth and blessed at his marriage, is usually blessed at his death at the ripe age of ninety or a hundred. It is a simple and on the whole a very happy, if not progressive, life. Some years ago, when hard times prevailed in Canada and the manufacturing cities of New England offered what seemed big wages to habitants, who considered themselves rich on one hundred dollars a year a great migration took place across the border; but it was not a happy move for these simple children of the soil. They missed the shepherding of their be-loved cure, and the movement has almost stopped. Also you find Jean Ba'tiste in the redwoods of California as lumber-jack, or plying a canoe on Mac-Kenzie River. The best fur-traders of the North to-day are half-breeds with a strain of French Canadian blood.
If you take a look at the map of Quebec under its new boundaries up into Labrador it seems absurd to call a region three times the area of Germany "a province" you will see that only the fringe of the river fronts has been peopled. This is owing to the old system of parceling out the land in mile strips back from the river a system that antedated the railroads, when every man's train was a paddle and the waterfront. Beyond, back up from the rivers, lies literally a no-man's-land of furs plentiful as of old, of timber of which only the edge has been slashed of water power unestimated and of mineral resources only guessed. It seems incredible at this late date that you can count on one hand the number of men who have ascended the rivers of Quebec and descended the rivers of Labrador to Hudson Bay. The forest area is estimated at one hundred and twenty million acres ; but that is only a guess. The area of pulp wood is boundless.
Along the St. Lawrence, south of the St. Lawrence and around the great cities come touches of the mode elaborate stock farms, great factories, magnificent orchards, huge sawmills. The progress of Montreal and the City of Quebec is so intimately involved with the navigation of the St. Lawrence route and the development of railroads that it must be dealt with separately ; but it may be said here that nearly all the old seigneurial tenures Crown grants of estates to the nobility of New France have passed to alien hands. The system itself, the last relic of feudal tenure in Canada, was abolished by Canadian law. What, then, is the aim of Quebec as a factor in Canada's destiny? It may be said perfectly frankly that with the exception of such enlightened men as Laurier, Quebec does not concern herself with Canada's destiny. In a war with France, yes, she would give of her sons and her blood ; in a war against France, not so sure. "Why are you loyal ?" I asked a splendid scholarly churchman of the old regime man whose works have been quoted by Parkman. "Because," he answered slowly, "because you English leave us alone to work out our hopes." "What are those hopes?" I asked. He waved his hand toward the window church spires and yet more spires far as we could see down the St. Lawrence another New France conserving the religious ideals that had been crushed by the republicanism of the old land. Let it be stated without a shadow of doubt Quebec never has had and never will have the faintest idea of secession. Her religious freedom is too well guaranteed under the present régime for her to risk change under an untried order of independence or annexation. The church wants Quebec exactly as she is to work out her destiny of a new and regenerate France on the banks of the St. Lawrence.
A certain section of the French oppose Canada em-broiling herself in European wars. They do this conscientiously and not as a political trick to attract the votes of the ultramontane French. One of the most brilliant supporters Sir Wilfred Laurier ever had flung his chances of a Cabinet place to the winds in opposing Canada's participation in the Boer War. He not only flung his chances to the winds, but he ruined himself financially and was read out of the party. The motive behind this opposition to Canada's participations in the Imperial wars is, perhaps, three-fold. French Canada has never forgotten that she was conquered. True, she is better off, enjoys greater religious liberty, greater material prosperity, greater political freedom than under the old régime; but she remembers that French prestige fell before English prestige on the Plains of Abraham. The second motive is an unconscious feeling of detachment from British Imperial affairs. Why should French Canada embroil herself and give of her blood and means for a race alien to herself in speech and religion? The Monroe Doctrine forever defends Canada from seizure by European power. Why not rest under that defense and build up a purely Canadian power? The third motive is almost subconscious. What if a European war should involve French-Catholic Canada on the side of Protestant England against French Catholic France, or even Catholic Italy? Quebec feels her self a part of Canada but not of the British Empire; and it is a great question how much Laurier's support of the British in the Boer War had to do with that partial defection of Quebec which ultimately defeated him on Reciprocity ; for if there is one thing the devout son of the church fears more than embroilment in European war, it is coming under the republicanizing influence of the United States. Under Canadian law the favored status of the church is guaranteed. Under American law the church would be on the same footing as all other denominations.
When one comes to Ontario, one is dealing with the kitchen garden of the Dominion in summer a land of placid sky-blue lakes, and amber-colored wooded rivers, and trim, almost garden-like farms, and heavily laden orchards, and thriving cities beginning to smoke under the pall of the increasing and almost universal factory. Under its old boundaries Ontario stood just eighteen thousand square miles larger than France. Under its new boundaries extending to Hudson Bay, Ontario measures almost twice the area of France. France supports a population of nearly forty millions; Ontario, of barely two and a half mil-lions. Both Ontario and France are equally fertile and equally diversified in fertility. Along the lakes and clustered round Niagara is the great fruit region —vineyards and apple orchards that are gardens of perfection. North of the lakes is a mixed farm region. Parallel with the latitude skirting Georgian Bay begins the Great Clay belt, an area of heavily forested lands about seven hundred miles north to south and almost a thousand diagonally east to west. On its southern edge this hinterland, which forms the watershed between Hudson Bay and the St. Lawrence, seems to be rock-bound and iron-capped. For years travelers across the continent must have looked through the car windows across this landscape of windfall and fire as a picture of desolation. Surely, "here was nothing," as some of the first explorers said when they viewed Canada from Labrador; but pause; not so fast ! Here lay, if nothing else, an area of timber limits seven hundred by one thousand miles; and as the timber burned off curious mineral outcrop-pings were observed. When the railroad was graded through what is now known as Sudbury, there was a report of a great find of copper. Expert after expert examined it, and company after company forfeited options and refused to bond it. Finally a shipment was sent out to a smelter across the border. The so-called "copper" was pronounced "nickel" the greatest deposit of the metal needed for armor plating known in the world. In fact, only one other mine could compete against the Sudbury nickel beds the French mines of New Caledonia. Here was something, surely, in this rock bound iron region of desolation, which passing travelers had pronounced worth-less.
The discovery of silver at Cobalt came by an almost similar chance. Grading an extension of a North Ontario railroad projected purely for the sake of prospective settlers, workmen came on surface deposits of "rose" silver almost pure metal, some of it; and there resulted such a mining boom and series of quick fortunes as had made Klondike famous. And Cobalt and Sudbury are at only the southern edge of the unexplored hinterland of Ontario. Old records of the French regime, daily journals of the Hudson's Bay Company fur-traders, repeatedly refer to well-known mines between Lake Superior and James Bay; but fur-traders discouraged mining; and this region is less known to-day than when coureur de bois and voyageur threaded river and lake and leafy wilderness. Ontario, like Quebec, is only on the outer edge of realizing her own wealth.
We sometimes speak as though Canada had had her boom and it was all over. She has had her boom, and the boom has exploded, and it is a good thing. When inflation collapses, a country gets down to reality ; and the reality is that Canada has barely begun to develop the exhaustless mine of wealth which Heaven has given her. Ontario, complacent with a fringe of prosperity along lake front, is an instance; Quebec, with only a border on each bank of her great rivers peopled, is another instance; and the prairie provinces are still more striking illustrations of the sleeping potentialities of the Dominion. In our dark days we used to call those three prairie provinces between Lake Superior and the Rockies "the granary of the Empire." I am afraid it was more in bravado, hoping against hope, than in any other spirit; for we were raising little grain and exporting less and receiving prices that hardly paid for the labor. That was back in the early nineties. To-day, what? One single year's wheat crop from one only of those provinces equals more gold in value than ever came out of Klondike. If Britain were cut off from every other source of food supply, those three provinces could feed the British Isles with their surplus wheat. To be explicit, credit Great Britain with a population of forty-five millions. Apportion to each six bushels of wheat the per capita requirement for food, according to scientists. Great Britain requires two hundred and eighty to three hundred million bushels of wheat for bread only —not to be manufactured into cereal products, which is another and enormous demand in itself. Of the wheat required for bread, Great Britain herself raises only fifty to sixty million bushels, leaving a deficit, which must come from outside sources, of two hundred million bushels.
In 1912 Canada raised one hundred and ninety-nine million bushels of wheat. In 1913, of grain products, Canada exported one hundred and ten million bushels ; of flour products, almost twenty million dollars' worth. Under stress of need or high prices these totals could easily be trebled. The figures are, indeed, bewildering in their bigness. In the. three prairie provinces there were under cultivation in 1912 for all crops only sixteen and one-half million acres. At twenty bushels to the acre this area put under wheat would feed Great Britain. But note-only six-teen and one-half million acres were under cultivation. There have been surveyed as suitable for cultivation one hundred and fifty-eight million acres. The land area of the three prairie provinces is four hundred and sixty six million acres. If only half the land surveyed as suitable for cultivation were put in wheat namely seventy-nine million acres; and if it yielded only ten bushels to the acre (it usually yields nearer twenty than ten), the three prairie provinces of Canada would be producing crops equal to the entire spring wheat production of the United States. Grant, then, two bushels for reseeding, or one hundred and fifty-eight million bushels, and six bushels for food, or fifty million bushels, the three prairie provinces would still have for export more than five hundred million bushels. All this presupposes population. Granting each man one hundred and sixty acres, it presupposes 493,750 more farmers than are in the West ; but coming to Canada yearly are four hundred thousand settlers; so that counting four out of every five settlers children, in half a decade at the least, Western Canada will have five hundred thousand more farmers enough to feed Great Britain and still have a surplus of wheat for Europe.
In connection with wheat exports from the West one factor should never be ignored the influence of the Great Lakes and the Soo Canal in reducing freight to the West. Great Lakes freight tolls are to-day the cheapest in the world, and their influence in minimizing the toll on the all-land haul must never be ignored. Freight can be carried on the Great Lakes one thousand miles for the same rate charged on rail rate for one hundred miles.
And wheat is not the only product of the three prairie provinces. On the borderland between Manitoba and Saskatchewan are enormous deposits of coal which have not yet been explored. Canoeing once through Eastern Saskatchewan and Northern Mannitoba, I saw a piece of almost pure copper brought down from the hinterland of Churchill River by an Indian, from an unknown mine, which no white man has yet found. On the borderland between Alberta and British Columbia is a ridge of coal deposits which such conservative experts as the late George Dawson estimated would mine four million tons a year for five thousand years. These coal deposits seem almost nature's special provision for the treeless plains.
It is well known that the decrease in white fish in the Great Lakes for the past ten years has been appalling. Northward of Churchill River is a region of chains of lakes the Lesser Great Lakes, they have been called and these are the only untouched inland fisheries in America. To the exporter they are ideal fishing ground. The climate is cool. The fish can be sent out frozen to American markets. Of Canada's thirty four million dollars' worth of fish in 191e, one and one-half million dollars' worth came from the three prairie provinces.
Under the old boundaries, the three prairie provinces compared in area respectively Manitoba with Great Britain ; Saskatchewan with France ; Alberta, one and a half times larger than Germany. Under the new boundaries extending the province to Hudson Bay, Manitoba is fifty-two thousand square miles larger than Germany ; Saskatchewan extended north is fifty thousand square miles larger than France; and Alberta extended north is fifty thousand square miles larger than Germany. And north of the three grain provinces is an area the size of' European Russia.
We talk of Canada's boom as "done," but has it even begun? Strathcona used to say that the three prairie provinces would support a population of one hundred million. Was he right? On the basis of Europe's population the three provinces would sustain three times Germany's sixty five millions.
In British Columbia one reaches the province of the greatest natural wealth, the greatest diversity in climate and the most feverish activity in Canada. East of the mountains is a climate high, cold and bracing as Russia or Switzerland. Between the ranges of the mountains are valleys mild as France. On the coast toward the south is a climate like Italy ; toward the north, like Scotland. Of Canada's entire timber area twice as great as Europe's standing timber three quarters lie in British Columbia. Fruit equal to Niagara's, fisheries richer than the maritime provinces, mines yielding more than Klondike exist in this most favored of provinces. While the area is a half larger than Germany, the population is smaller than that of a suburb of Berlin. Of Canada's thirty-four million dollars' worth of fish, thirteen million dollars' worth come from British Columbia; and of her products of forty-six millions of precious and fifty-six millions of nonmetallic minerals in 1911 easily half came from British Columbia.
Instead of that repose which marks the maritime provinces, one finds an eager fronting to the future that is almost feverish. If Panama is turning the entire Pacific into a front door instead of a back door, then British Columbia knows the coign of vantage, which she holds as an outlet for half Canada's commerce by way of the Pacific. It is in British Columbia that East must meet West and work out destiny.