The American Invasion of Canada
The reason that hundreds of thousands from across the border seek new homes in the fertile Dominion—Americans and Canadians are the best of friends—Prosperity and plenty abound on all sides.
J. Olivier Curwood in The Circle Magazine
IT was in 1901 that I first came into personal intimacy with what was then popularly called the “Yankee invasion of Canada.” I traveled 2,000 miles in a “colonists’ car” crowded with men, women and children from Iowa and the two Dakotas; drank coffee boiled over a “community” stove, ate with them, became a partner to their new hopes and new ambitions, and for many weeks after that lived among the thousands of Americans who had already settled upon the fertile prairies of Saskatchewan and Alberta. When I returned to the States, it was with the conviction that the “Yankee invasion” was inevitably tending toward annexation. Everywhere I found the old home love among Americans ; I saw Fourth of July celebrated as enthusiastically in little communities of the almost unsettled prairies as in the villages and towns of my own State; I came in contact with the unpleasant rivalry existing between the “true subjects of the king” and the patriot invaders from beyond the border—and I was satisfied then that there was more truth than romance in the argument of the Conservatives that the Liberal policy of “drumming up immigration” was bound, sooner or later, to swamp Western Canada in an inundation of Yankees whose politics and “American tendencies” would act like a boomerang upon the destiny of the Dominion.
Twice during the next five years I went over the same scenes. I saw the log homes of 1901 turned into cattle-sheds and my friends of (lie cmig-ant-cars happy in the possession of modern homes ; I saw hustling villages and towns where before had been only mile-posts, gazed upon thousands of acres of wheat-land where before were only rolling prairie and forest. For hundreds of miles I rode horseback through regions settled only by Americans and Canadians. There remained little of the prejudice and rivalry of five years before. A new “political idea” was taking root in the West—an “idea” that brought Americans and Canadians together in fraternal neighborliness, and made their interests one. For the third time I returned to the States, and this time with a modified conviction. There would either be annexation or a new nation would rise in the North.
Once more I have viewed the results of the “invasion,” and this time, after having witnessed its various phases for a period of seven years, there is but one conclusion to arrive at : The “new idea” has taken firm root. A new form of co-education is, and has been, at work in the Canadian West, and in every phase it spells the birth of a new nation. Unnumbered thousands of Americans—not bankrupt and indigent people seeking easily acquired homes, but industrious and ambitious farmers from the West and Middle West, with their deepseated ideas of independence and their inborn hostility toward anything that smacks of “allegiance”—are mingling in general prosperity with other thousands of Canadians, whose ideas of citizen government, of law, and of social ethics ¿an not but meet with their approbation ; and these two forces dovetailing in every-day life, meeting in the schoolroom, the church, and the home, are bringing about that “mean level” of thought which looks neither to Great Britain nor the United States for its trend, but which, in the words of an American mayor of one of the new towns of the West, “is digging out a channel of its own.” Half a dozen years ago there was a powerful opposition in Canada to the Government’s immigration policy; to-day, from the provinces of the East to the Pacific coast, that opposition is practically gone. The “Yankees” were feared before they came. Throughout Quebec and the East they were regarded by half of the population as the “American peril.” Now the situation is vastly different, and can be realized fully only by those who have watched this gradual change in the sentiment of a nation. The Americans have come ; they have built towns and villages, and have populated the prairies, but they have proved themselves pleasantly disappointing. And just as “pleasantly disappointing” have they found their Canadian brethren.
These facts, as I will attempt to show, have built up a condition in Western Canada which exists nowhere else in the world to-day, and to see which one must travel beyond the border towns and cities, it is in these border towns that numerous writers, and especially newspaper editors, gather that “material” which never fails to protray a feeling of jealousy and resentment on the part of Canadians toward Americans, and which has gradually engendered an apparent feeling of unfriendliness between the peoples of the twro countries. This is eminently unfair. It gives a wrong picture of conditions as they are actually working out in Greater Canada. The border towns of the Dominion have always been jealous of the border towns of the United States, and there are very natural reasons for this.
Before describing conditions as I recently found them in the Canadian West, it may be best to give some idea of that great human mechanism which is now working to attract settlers from the United States, and the results it is achieving. This human mechanism works directly from Ottawa. Its campaign in America is carried on as cautiously and with as much strategy and thought as though an actual war was being waged upon the Yankees; the movement has its commander-in-chief, its “cabinet,” its generals, and its officers and men of the ranks. Its “fight for people” is centred in the United States. Canada is now unanimous in its desire for new citizens—and especially for Americans. They are even preferred to the English, as one will discover in almost every town or settled community of the great West. Consequently the campaign has never been more effective in the United States than at the presen: time. In the chief cities of eighteen States of the Union are situated the “great captains” of the Dominion Government’s campaign for settlers. In other words, in each of these cities is a chief agent, and under these captains are a host of lieutenants, who are working ceaselessly in the building of the new nation. Every moment these men are on the watch for new ideas, new opportunities. Millions of copies of descriptive booklets, millions of maps and finely illustrated brochures, are circulated among the farmers. Alluring and costly exhibits of Canadian farm products are shown at the State and county fairs. Stereopticon lectures, in which the vast opportunities of Western Canada are graphically described, are given in rural places. Thousands of dollars are spent in newspaper and farm-journal advertising. And the campaign does not cease here. From the Far West prosperous farmers are induced to make visits among their friends in the States. Their transportation is paid by the immigration department, and, in return, they tell these friends of the free homes, the plenty and prospërity, that await them in the new land. There is no fraud about this remarkable campaign for American settlers. The Canadian West is a land of great
opportunity, and, consequents, the immigration department can go to almost any length in its inducements. One of its favorite schemes is to form a party of half a dozen or a dozen representative farmers in a certain district and send them through the West, where they are royally treated and their expenses paid. Nine times out of ten these parties return to the States enthusiastic about the new country and its people, and new settlers are the result.
Not until one has traveled from end to end of the Canadian West, not until one has actually lived among the settlers, eaten with them, talked with them, and slept under their roofs, does one realize that this campaign of the Dominion Government in the United States is not what I might call indiscriminate. In other words, Canada is, in a way, selecting her new citizens from across the border. The policy of the immigration department is to work in the most prosperous farming communities—to send into the West settlers, not poverty-stricken and indigent, but with flocks and herds, and chattels of their own. Statistics go to prove this. During the years ending June 30, 1907, 56,652 American settlers went into Canada, and with them they took property valued at fourteen million dollars, an average of more than $250 for every man, woman and child who left the States.
. In view of this apparent prosperity of the majority of those who leave their American homes for a new West the questions naturally arise : Why do they go? What are the reasons or the attractions that induce hundreds of thousands of Americans to seek new homes across the border?
There are several “popular” and easily understood reasons for the exodus. The Dominion Government gives a settler absolutely free 160 acres of land, and that settler may choose the location of his own home; and when these 160 acres of land are under cultivation, with good barns and a residence upon them, this man’s taxes will not exceed $10 or $15 a year. If there is but one settler living in a certain district, and that settler possesses eleven or more children, the Government will build a school for him. In other words, there must be a school in any district that boasts of eleven children ; and, moreover, if this school has an average attendance of six during the year, it is entitled to an annual grant from the Government, a grant which covers teacher’s salary and nearly every other expense of the school.
There are other and potent reasons for the emigration. While traveling westward from Winnipeg in a “colonist” car, I became very well acquainted with a family of seven from Iowa—three strapping sons, two daughters and the parents. They were of the most intelligent class of farmers, unusually prosperous, and there seemed to be not the slightest reason in the world for their leaving their fine old farm back in Marshall County, less than fifty miles from Des Moines. I asked the head of the family for his reason, and he said :
“Well, you see, it’s this way: As
long as the boys were young, the old farm was big enough. But now all three of them want to start out for themselves. I didn’t want to see them go to work as ‘hired help,’ and the farm wasn’t big enough to split up into four shares. So we figured that if we sold it for $5,000 and went up into Canada, every one of us would have a 160-acre farm with homes on them, and we’d all be together.”
This is one reason that I found in almost every Western community that I have visited. In Western Canada the eighteen-year-old son is given a big farm free, and, by emigrating, the father at once sees him on the road to prosperity. The opportunities now open in the West are tending toward bringing about another interesting condition-—the stemming of the rush of rural young men into American cities. Last year 14,000 of those who crossed the border were young men, between the ages of eighteen and twenty-five, and during the coming year the immigration department of the Dominion plans on making a powerful effort to draw twice that number of farm boys into Saskatchewan and Alberta.
I have found among Americans in Western Canada another reason for their emigration, and one which it is not pleasant for an American to dwell upon. I have found considerable dissatisfaction with the States. “Back in the States the farmer has to raise five dollars’ worth of produce in order to earn one dollar for himself,” said an Ohio man who emigrated to Manitoba four years ago. “It’s constant graft from the time you take your potatoes or your fruit to the station until you receive your check ; and while apples, for instance, are selling at panic prices in the city, the farmer isn’t offered enough to pay him for picking them up from the ground. The American farmer who is near enough to a big city to market his own stuff can make a mighty good living, but it’s hard for the fellow who has to ship. Up here it’s different. Every man owns his own farm, and it is big enough to enable him to make a good living even if prices should go low.” But the dissatisfaction of American colonists in the Canadian West does not go beyond conditions. I do not wish to imply that our emigrating people, the expatriates in the true sense of the word, have lost a whit of the love for the land they are leaving. But, at the same time, one will not find five settlers in a hundred who favor annexation, and I do not believe there is one out of fifty of the older settlers but who would vote against it were such a proposition put before them. This is not because they prefer British citizenship, which in reality is a thorn in their side. I do not believe that it is generally understood in the States that the American emigrant who takes up a homestead in Canada must become a British citizen. This, however, is true. Before a settler is given his patent or deed, he is compelled to discard American citizenship and swear allegiance to the crown, thus becoming, in word and fact, “a subject of the king.” As a result of this, the voting power of Americans in Western Canada is becoming tremendous. For nearly 1,000 miles westward from Winnipeg, along the line of the Canadian Pacific, the population of the towns and country is more generally American than that of the State of New York, and Alberta, especially from the border northward to Edmonton, might be regarded as a typical American State. Between Calgary and Edmonton, a distance of 200 miles, one may travel along the line of the railroad from house to house and five out of every six people encountered are Americans. Forty thousand people from the States have settled the country between these two towns. Both Calgary and Edmonton are hustling American cities, and so are a score of smaller towns ranging northward from the Montana border. Many of these places, from Winnipeg to the Far West, have reeves and councils made up of men who four or five years ago were tilling the fields or keeping store in the States, and in church and school life, as well as in politics, American influence is everywhere apparent. There are at the present time between 375,000 and 400,000 American settlers from Winnipeg west, with a possible voting population of 120,000, a percentage which is naturally high because of the fact that thousands of men without families are seeking their fortunes there. Of these 120,000 males above 21 years of age, it is estimated that at least 40,000 have already become British citizens, and the others will undoubtedly “swear allegiance” as soon as their three years of residence in the country expires and they are ready for their patents.
And what does this great army of American voters in Western Canada signify? What will be the ultimate result of the controlling influence they are now exerting in Western Canadian politics, and which they will continue to exert more and more each year? These are questions of tremendous interest to the people of the States, and they bring us at once to the unusual condition which now exists beyond the border. The hundreds of thousands of Americans in the West do not consider that they have merely adopted a new country ; instead, the sentiment is general among them that they are making a new country, and that they are co-partners, on equal terms of ownership and rights, with their Canadian neighbors who have emigrated from the Eastern Provinces of the Dominion. They do not regard themselves as aliens, but as pioneers—the first conquerors of the soil ; and, singular as it may seem, they even now speak of the foreign immigration that is coming in a steadily increasing flood from Europe into their country Their Canadian neighbors have ceased to regard them as invaders, and both are unanimous in the opinion that the immigrants from Europe are the most undesirable of all that are coming into the country. The Canadian prefers an American, and the American a Canadian, to any other neighbor—unless it is one of their own people.
Everywhere through this new West one finds prosperity and plenty. In no better way is this proved than by the building of railroads. In 1881 there were only seventy-five miles of railroad in Manitoba and the West. To-day 8,000 miles are completed and in service, and despite the fact that her railway mileage per capita is already greater than that of any other country on earth, there are to-day 9,000 miles of new lines under contract or construction in Canada, and most of it in the West.
All along these lines new towns and cities have sprung up, and are springing up, with remarkable rapidity. And these are “colonist cities” in every sense of the words. They have little in sympathy with the Eastern Provinces, and even less with the States. Their “builders” already regard the West as Greater Canada; the towns and cities are of their own making, and the work has aroused a new national sentiment in both Americans and Canadians, that sentiment which will ultimately give birth to a great republic on our north. Municipal ownership is triumphing to a marked degree, and the liquor question is being handled as in no other place in the world. Every American and Canadian townsman and farmer in the West is interested in this liquor question, and, as a result, the traffic is absolutely in the control of the people. From Manitoba to the Rockies, a distance of 800 miles, there is not a single saloon ! The only place where one can get liquor is at a hotel bar, and a hotel must be of a certain size, with a certain number of rooms, before a license will be issued to it.
Perhaps the most striking proof that I have encountered of the amalgamation of the Canadian and American colonists into one people, with the same interests, and to a great extent the same ambitions, is in their social intercourse. When I went into Western Canada seven years ago, the national prejudice, bred and encouraged by the Eastern newspapers of both countries, was very manifest, and I found Canadians preferring the English, and the Americans mingling socially almost exclusively among themselves. Such things as “American clubs,” Fourth-of-July cliques, etc., were quite common, and the Canadian sons of the soil were prone to regard the “Yankees” as aliens, immeasurably less to be preferred than their Énglish cousins. During the course of seven years, however, this feeling has completely changed, and I have met scores of colonists, both American and Canadian, who believe that they should join in setting aside a “great day,” to be celebrated in the manner of Fourth of July or the Queen’s Birthday, but which should be exclusively typical of the West. In many of the towns there are now business and social clubs made up both of Canadians and Americans, and in the rural districts neighborhood organizations promote good fellowship.
I believe the strongest and the truest epitome of the situation in the Canadian West to-day was given to me by a Canadian settler at Moose Jaw. For five years he had lived in the States, and he said to me:
“If they say back in the States that Canadians and Americans are not the best of friends out here in the West, tell them that they are mistaken; and if they won’t believe that they are mistaken, tell them that they are fools, or—that they lie !”
This is pretty strong, but it paints the picture as it exists to-day—the
picture of a great nation in the making, a nation which will neither crave annexation nor pride itself on allegiance to a crown, but which will, sooner or later, take a front seat among the republics of the world.