We passed Labrador early in the morning, and entered the
Gulf of St Lawrence. Tomorrow afternoon we expect to arrive at Quebec. I
hope we may be allowed to land there, but I hear that "red tape” is the
rule at the ports, and it is a question whether we shall be permitted to
leave the ship. Anyhow there are many passengers whose homes are in
Quebec, and all the "settlers" who are going out West, are always
disembarked there in the summer, where they entrain for their long
journey, the same train taking them through without change.
In the morning we had all to attend in the saloon to
receive a card, bearing our name. Later, these cards were completed by
government officials and doctors after our examination.
For third-class passengers this examination takes place
at Quebec, ashore, before they board the train, but for passengers
proceeding further, the examination is made on board the ship.
I learn that if there is any doubt of a tourist passing
the doctor, it is by far the wiser plan to be medically examined before
leaving England, because, if disease of any kind is detected, the person
is not allowed to land at all, but has to be taken back again on the
same boat, his passage being paid for by the Government.
The examination is very thorough, and one felt inclined
to protest against it, but if one complains to a Canadian, he would
shrug his shoulders and speak disdainfully of our "open door,” and as
though we lacked ordinary common sense in not closing it to every one
but eminently desirables. "If you choose to take in paupers and
weaklings from other countries, well, do so; we are not taking any but
If the cards which I have mentioned are eventually
stamped by the Government and medical officials, well and good, one
feels free, but it is necessary to keep the card carefully, as a kind of
passport. A passenger can always be traced, and if any disease appears,
or the passenger, for any reason, becomes chargeable to the Government,
any time during the three years following his entrance into the country,
he is liable to deportation.
There are no workhouses in Canada, nor, I believe, any
Prairie lands are simply great grass plains thousands of
miles in extent; land ready for ploughing, calling for men to do it.
Land along the beaten track, or railway track, is soon taken; it is the
"back blocks" that wait so long to be tilled. There it is, miles away
from and other habitation, that the settler finds life so hard and so
lonely, for he and his family must live in utter isolation.
I had, of course, learned much of Canada during my few
days at sea, and had long talks with Canadians about farming. One man
who had been only five years in Canada, declared that there was work for
any number of men who may go to Canada, for many years to come.
I asked why English newspapers so often advised young men
not to go to Canada, as there was as much unemployment there as in
England; to which I received the reply. "Quite right! Because men here,
as in England. flock to the towns, particularly those men who are clerks
and have lived in towns in England. They go out as far as Winnipeg or
Regina, where trains pour thousands of men into the towns; these men,
after their journey, will often have very little money left; they
probably fail to find employment, and are soon in a state of starvation
and despair, especially if winter be coming on, and yet these men are
wanted on every mile of the country they have passed through.
"Farmers will even go to the stopping stations along the
railway track, and walk up and down, asking if there are any men wanting
work; but no, they are booked to some great town, and to the town they
will go. They could, if it were harvest time, get off the train, earn
for themselves two and a half or three dollars per day in addition to
their board, and if they pleased, earn sufficient during the summer to
keep them through the winter.”
Said my friend: “Take myself, for instance, I went to
Regina when I left home; I stayed there three months and got only three
weeks’ work; I had a little money, but living was costly, and I very
soon became 'stoneybroke.’ I considered whether I should not at once
write for sufficient money to take me home, but, fortunately, I didn’t.
I started with only one dollar, and went about forty miles into the
country, where I was received with open aims.
“That was five years ago, I haven't done very great
things, but, you see, I have taken a holiday, I have gone comfortably to
England, have seen most of your big towns, and have been to Ireland and
Scotland. I have seen the Coronation processions and all the sights 1
cared to see, and I am going into the States to stay a couple of months
with my mother. After that, I shall go back, take up my work, flax
farming, again. So you see what can be done. At the same time if,
instead of going into the wilds, I had returned home, I should probably
have said as your papers say: ‘It is of no use going to Canada.’ I
should not have thought or spoken of Canada as I can now,
There is work for thousands, there are great
possibilities, there is fabulous wealth both on and under the soil,
there is every kind of climate—men and women are wanted everywhere. For
women there is always work not only in the homesteads, but in almost
every kind of occupation; for nurses and schoolmistresses especially;
only, the newcomer should not crowd into the towns, and it is very
necessary, with or without capital, to have plenty of pluck and
backbone. One must expect uphill work at first, and take, for a start,
anything that turns up. No man or woman will lose caste by so doing.”
I asked my friend what a man would do as regards food and
supplies in the winter, alone in the back plots, and he replied: "Near
Regina it is so cold that if one gets a good supply of food—eggs,
butter, or bread-it will all freeze and so keep as long as the frosts
last; not much trouble that, is it? One just unfreezes the things as one
requires them. No! there’s not much trouble in keeping food in out
climate,” he said, with a shrug of his shoulders and a determined sort
of smile. "The possibilities for men determined to get on, are immense.
“The wealthy people of England should invest their money
in millions, for railways and buildings, for people are settling in all
directions. A railway here does not need to open up the country by
building branch lines and bringing people; on the contrary, the people
are already there, almost isolated from the world, waiting for the
railway to come and carry their com, coal, timber and all the riches of
the land to the markets of the world.
"Of course, as soon as a new branch of railway is open,
it brings new settlers. Townships spring up as if by magic, never mind
if the buildings be just 'dug-outs’—or wooden shanties—and there are no
roads or lighting. There is not time yet to build proper houses. There
are probably, at first, no masons, no builders, no material, until the
railway brings them; stores though, however rough, are opened at once.
“Later on, when better buildings are erected, they are
generally of the most up-to-date kind; everything is of the newest
design and embodies the latest improvements.
"It is almost impossible to realize the immensity of the
country with its millions of acres of bare, uninhabited prairie. Why!
even the greater part of the Province of Quebec is still a barren waste,
waiting to be taken up, without going thousands of miles into the
interior of the Dominion; how then, can one hesitate to make a home in
Canada? Besides, compared with the hardships of the pioneers of fifty
years ago, it is now all plain sailing. A man or woman can find out
beforehand exactly what the climate and the country are like, whatever
be the part to which they may wish to go.
"It is not like going into an unexplored country,
entirely ignorant of what it is like, or what you may find when you get
there.” Many other very interesting conversations I had with people
living in different parts of Canada, but, as information can always be
had at the Canadian Government offices, I need not enter upon them here.