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Making Good in Canada
Chapter XXI - Some Emigration Problems and how they may be solved

The tide of emigration has been setting very strongly, and in increasing volume. Canada-wards for many years past now, and the natural inference, judging from statistics, is that the country is filing up and becoming settled very speedily. This impression is quite erroneous. The last census came as a startling eye-opener concerning the true state of affairs. The illusion that settlement was proceeding effectively was dispelled ruthlessly.

The Dominion maintains a very energetic emigration campaign in this country. The machinery is perfect, no effort being spared to attract the most serviceable and competent, as well as enterprising, spirits to its shores. Yet, when the authorities receive the emigrants into the country, they fail to hold a very significant proportion. Why? This is a, question that has been asked time after time, and has been discussed vehemently in an academic manner, but no tangible answer or panacea has been found.

It is a problem, which bristles with difficulties of a perplexing character to a country with conditions which demand peculiar treatment. Broadly, there are only tw o seasons in the year, spring and autumn being so brief as to be insignificant, and under the circumstances the violent extremes in climate are experienced fully. This contrast affects the labour market very decisively. In the summer there is work enough and to spare for all—the demand overbalances the supply—but in the winter the pendulum kicks just as viciously to the opposite extreme. Then, with more than half the country and its staple industries shut down by the Ice and Snow King, the surplus labour brought in to combat the summer glut of work is throw n suddenly upon its own resources. The result is that a large volume of labour is sent drifting hither and thither, the sport of fortune, which, being unable to hibernate like the bear, has to do something to keep the human engine going until the summer comes round once more.

This flotsam and jetsam, comprising some of the best types of workmen that are to be found unpossessed of capital wherewith to secure a firm establishment in the country, for the most part trickles southwards into the United States upon the close of the Canadian summer. South of the border the opportunities for employment are more varied and plentiful. The original intention of the wanderer is to tide things over through the winter in the States, and then to return to Canada with the spring ; but when a man has shaken down to a new job at good wages, and can hold it as long as he likes, naturally he concludes that the berth in the States among 100,000,000 people is better than two in Canada among less than 8,000,000 fellow-beings. The result is that Canada acts as a kind of sieve, where labour sorts itself out, the best and strongest turning to the south to leave the dregs to swell the ranks of the Canadian out-of-works.

The number of people who emigrate to Canada, and who shed the dust of the country from their feet at the end of the first summer, is astonishing While the greater part wanders into the United States, a large proportion rambles westwards until it is pulled up by the Pacific Ocean. Yet it pushes onward to the Antipodes, to find a home where snow and wintry blasts are unknown. According to statistics, the trend of emigration from Great Britain appears to have swung from New York to Canada, but these figures are fallacious. The How of emigration to the United States from this country is just as imposing, if not more so, only it runs via Canada. The Dominion Government parades the figures of those who enter its boundaries, but is silent over those who pass out.

The Canadian authorities do not appear to have gripped the problem of emigration, and apparently fail to realize that the task of peopling its vast tracts of waste is just as much a business proposition as the maintenance of its harbours. Free tracts of land arc given tinder the Homestead Law with a liberal hand, but of what avail is it to give a man a block of 100 acres if he has not the money wherewith to start operations, and is not in a position to wait a few years until the land is cleared and brought to a stage of productivity? It is all very well to say that the homesteader must be prepared to face short rations for two or three years, but even a hand-to-mouth existence costs something, and the man with no more than the £5 in his pocket which is necessary to enter the country is not prepared to face such a proposition.

Instead of giving the quarter-sections away in the raw condition, the Government should offer them as partly manufactured. Each 160 acres should be developed to a small degree for the new arrival. At least twenty acres of the land ought to be cleared and broken ready for the first cropping, to give a man a chance. Then, instead of leaving the immigrant to live as best he can in a tent, or whatever other kind of shelter he can run up temporarily, a substantial shack should be provided. The total cost of such preliminary opera! ions would not represent more than £100, taking it all round. In some places it would be much less, in others slightly more, according to the situation of the land and its virgin condition.

A partially-developed farm is far more attractive to the new arrival than an ugly blotch of tangled and twisted primeval forest or a stretch of green rolling prairie. The British emigrant can form no idea when seated beside the fire of his home and dreaming of his prospects in Canada, of what ‘‘virgin conditions” mean in the .Dominion. The very blackest pictures he can conjure up in his mind are seen through rosy glasses, as he finds to his cost when he is dumped on to the land and able to look round. His first thought is to “chuck the whole thing up,” and if he is unaccompanied, he generally follows this inclination, preferring to knock about from pillar to post, picking up a job and money as best he can, to starvation upon 160 acres which are about as inviting as the North Pole.

But if the farm were partially developed, it would be attractive. Arriving in the early spring, the immigrant would be able to buckle into the broken twenty acres in the confidence that within a very few weeks his farm would be bringing him something in. No matter how little the income might be, it would be sufficient to spur the man on. The present laws could be adapted to the situation by compelling the settler to continue, and to complete so much additional improvement work every year. In fact, the man on the land would have every inducement to do so. The subsequent improvements would be carried out steadily and persistently, because the man, having received a good boost, would strive heart and soul to complete the work.

There is nothing more back and heart-breaking or soul-suffering than clearing heavy virgin land such as rolls away over the hills and dabs of Quebec, Ontario, and British Columbia, and the man has to be made of pretty stem stuff, and supplied with plenty of pluck and spirit, to keep going against such odds. Under the present conditions, the average homesteader, from my own investigations and experiences, likens the first few years of his life to a dose of penal servitude, and, indeed the simile is not far wrong.

There would be no necessity to make tho settler a free present of the money laid out in initial improvement. It should rank as a loan, repayable within a certain number of years, the outstanding balance bearing a fair rate of interest—3, 4. or 4½ per cent, would be equitable. The country could not complain that it was not receiving a fair return upon its investment, inasmuch as it guarantees the bonds of various other undertakings, many of which are more speculative than land, which is the backbone of any nation, up to these limits. If possible, the payment of a deposit should not be enforced, unless it were extremely nominal, because the average settler would require all his savings for acquiring seed, stock, and implements. The first payment should be small—say, from £5 to £10. according to the outlay on the improvement work—and should be collected at tire end of the first year’s labours. In fact, all the instalments during the first three years should be nominal, just to give the man the chance to get his feet planted firmly. Afterwards, the annual payments might be made heavier, gradually increasing every year until the debt was wiped off. The fundamental idea of such a scheme should be to permit the man to liquidate the debt out of revenue, of course giving him the option to increase the amount of any instalment, because a year’s fruit from the land might enable him to contribute a heavier payment without straining his resources, and he should also have the right to dispose of the balance in one sum if he felt so disposed. In other words the man should bo able to buy 160 acres of freehold land in Canada as easily and comfortably as he can acquire £5 worth ot furniture in Britain.

The existing homestead law need not be repealad, but such a scheme made merely supplementary thereto, with such modifications in. the present legislation as the latter might render necessary. For instance, a settler should not be permitted to secure his patent for his farm in fewer years than is the practice now in vogue, and the value of the annual improvements effected under his own initiative should be equal to, or slightly more, than is demanded at present, owing to the man having received a substantial start. Under any circumstances, the settler should be refused the title to his land until he bad repaid the cost of the Government’s initial improvements, and should not be permitted to sell, lease, or otherwise dispose of it, until the quarter section became his own unfettered property.

From the Government point of view, the investment would become entirely self-supporting. No risks whatever would bo incurred, as the official surveyors would guard against indifferent land being brought within the scheme. If the project were run upon a basis of, say, £100,000 being voted for the work per annum, in the first year 1.000 farms would be started, and possibly 6.000 people settled tightly in the country, on tho average of six souls to a family. From the end of the first year the scope of development would extend automatically more and more every year, because the instalments and interest would swell the annual appropriation, allowing further money for the undertaking somewhat after the manner of the well-known “snowball system.” In the course of a few years the annual appropriation could be stopped, and the scheme permitted to continue upon the instalments and interest coming in from the previous annual investments.

The practicability of such a project is afforded by the results of the Canadian Pacific Railway’s experiment upon similar lines. Some three or four years ago this corporation set aside a sum of money for “ready-made farms upon the easy-payment system.” The idea received such whole-hearted support that- now it has been converted into a substantial commercial undertaking. The control, however, should be vested in the Government in preference to private enterprise, unless the latter was hedged in tightly by restrictions, so as to prevent abuses and the infliction of any hardships upon the settler, in which event the scheme would be brought into disrepute.

There is no reason to doubt that, if the Canadian Government entertained the project seriously, a loan would be instantly forthcoming. A guaranteed interest of S} per cent, upon a, land loan would mate a wide appeal, and, surmising that the Government set the rate of interest at 4\ per cent, for the homesteader, the difference of 1 per cent, should be ample to defray the cost of operating the enterprise. Indeed, it could be carried out by the existing homestead organization through the agent of the Land Office for the district. It would not be necessary even to create any new machinery.

The future of Canada depends entirely upon the settlement of its land, and there is another possible method by which this end might be accomplished rapidly and positively. It is especially applicable to now territories while they are being opened up. Armies of men are engaged in carrying forward the settling forces of civilization, such as the building of railways. At the present moment it is safe to assume that some 50,000 men—practically unskilled labour—is finding employment upon these enterprises. Every man represents a unit in the floating and drifting population of the Dominion. When their tasks are completed they wander about aimlessly seeking for work, or waste their substance in riotous excesses. They have no tie to any one spot, or even to the country; there is no inducement to settle and to become permanent residents; they may be in Canada to-day and in the States to morrow. The very character of their work stamps them as men who are likely to develop into healthy, energetic, law-abiding citizens, but not a single straw of encouragement is thrown out to them. Quite one-tenth of the present population of Canada may be reckoned in the category of “drifting,” and, being birds of passage, they cannot be construed as inhabitants of Canada. They are merely workers in the land who, when the bottom of the labour market falls out, hike to assist in digging the Panama Canal or some other undertaking outside the Dominion.

These men receive possibly a clear one or two guineas a week in wages after they have paid out all expenses. They cannot amass capital very quickly. Even if they were as thrifty as the proverbial Scotsman, they could not put by more than £«0 or £100 per annum. Obviously, it is impossible for them to comply with the present Homestead Law, no matter how earnestly they might desire to settle down. Why not give them the opportunity? It should be possible to amend the law in such a way as to attract these labourers.

The end could be achieved satisfactorily if the Government were to consider the period of labour upon the railway as equivalent to residence for a similar length of time upon a homestead. Quarter-sections might be placed at the disposal of men who would undertake to work for three years continuously upon the grade, and then upon the completion of that term, to have handed to them the 160 acres of freehold free from restrictions. Of course, it might be argued that such a system would lead to wild speculation in land; that the labourers would make their applications for their quarter-sections, and then, when they had received them, would transfer them to some land-looter at a small figure, without carrying out a pennyworth of improvements. This practice would be followed by a few undoubtedly, but the majority would cling to their property, as it would offer them something tangible, such an is not within their perspective at present.

Suppose 100,000 men made applications for quarter-sections directly such a scheme were sanctioned. The Government would be certain of the services of that army of 100 000 men upon certain undertakings, the completion of which are urgent, for three years. The railways, or what not, would not be held up periodically from a dearth of labour; there would be none of that scurrying round from time to time in the endeavour to hustle men to the grade. The line would be completed in a third of the time which is necessary under existing conditions, and the country would derive the benefit from this more expeditious completion. On the other hand, the Government would be parting with only 25000 square miles of land—a very small total, considering the vast area of the country which still demands settlement—and this method of disposal would not cause the Government to suffer in any way, as it gives the land away to-day.

If an inducement of this character were held out, it would prove highly beneficial. From my associations with the grade and the men in the railway camps. I know full well that a large majority would settle down permanently on the land if they were only given a fair chance. In many instances the men would be encamped in close proximity to the farm to which they would become entitled, and they would accordingly put in their leisure upon its improvement, so that it might be in a first-class going condition by the time their three years on the grade wa3 completed. The Government might even go so far as to clear end break a portion of every quarter-section, end provide a shack in readiness for the labourer’s permanent occupation, the man contributing the cost thereof in instalments meanwhile from his wages. The cost of the improvement, if it represented, say, an outlay of £75 might be made payable in rnanual sums by the grader during the three years he w as at constructional work, in accordance with the terms of his contract.

Another advantage would result from the scheme. The land set aside for such disposal might be allocated entirely in the new country in which the graders were toiling. In a- single stroke the new country would be set going the nucleus of a healthy community would be settled on either side of the railway running through the territory, and the revenue earning prospects of the new line would be improved vastly. When a trunk railway penetrates entirely new country, it is anticipated that a period of ten years must pass before the line contiguous thereto becomes sufficiently opened up and productive enough to render the line profitable. This shows how slowly settlement and development proceeds if left to its own devices. But, by giving the country a good start-off and the railway-graders a chance to become permanent residents, progressive expansion would follow before the line was open for traffic.

The time has come when Canada will have to consider seriously the modification of its honest trading laws. Other colonies and countries during the past few years have entered the British emigration market, and by means of far better attractions than are possessed by the Dominion are diverting the emigration tide to their respective shores. In this respect Australia is manifesting commendable energy. Curiously enough, I found a yearning throughout the West among the British homesteading population to try their luck in Australia, where it was maintained that a. man had far rosier chances of making good than were offend in the Dominion. Many had gone, I found, and the letters they w rote to their former friends and neighbours were irresistibly enticing. Certainly, in Canada agricultural pursuits have been narrowed down very considerably, owing to the craze to grew wheat, and unless this tendency is checked and diversified farming receives more encouragement, the Dominion will be relegated to a back seat. The other colonies have not the bogey of a long, hard, pitilessly cold winter to scare the settlers. Also, the Australian Government has reduced emigration to a scientific and soundly commercial basis. Considering the strategical position that the Dominion holds geographically and economically, financially and commercially, in regard to the heart of the Empire, its position should be assured. Agriculture is the sheet-anchor of every country, but its scope must be broad. Wheat, while an indispensable commodity, will often lead to a nation’s undoing. A few years ago the United States held the world as a wheat-growing country’. It was passed by its younger rival to the north, and to-day Canada is in danger of being outpaced in this respect by the Argentine, Australia and Russia. Climatically, Canada is not comparable with its greatest rival, Australia, and in the panning of the emigration sand, unless a more up-to-date and liberal policy is displayed, the Antipodes will receive the gold, and Canada the dross, of labour.

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