The PROBLEM of Our NEW CANADIANS

Nellie L. McClung September 1 1919

The PROBLEM of Our NEW CANADIANS

Nellie L. McClung September 1 1919

The PROBLEM of Our NEW CANADIANS

Nellie L.McClung

IT does not matter how much sentiment there may be relating to any subject, nor how

many well-wishers it may have, things do not begin to happen until some man or woman is raised up to turn into action the many kind thoughts and good wishes which exist in a sort of nebular condition. That is what is meant by the saying that every reform is the lengthened shadow of some man.

The West has had for many years a “Foreign Problem,” caused by the great influx of people from other countries, who have come hither, attracted by the free land and the resultant opportunities for home-making. They come here unable to speak the language, unacquainted with our customs, and in many ways dependent upon the kind offices of our people. There are many things they can not do for themselves. The churches, seeing this opportunity for service, have done good work by establishing mission centres, free kindergartens, day nurseries, night schools, sewing classes and Sunday schools. But the workers have always known that it was the public school which could do the real work of education. And in the public schools where the foreign children have attended, there have been many teachers with real vision and real kindness of heart whose good work cannot be measured. But no particular effort was made in the way of special help to the foreign schöols until about four years ago in the province of Manitoba, when Mr. Ira Stratton, of Stonewall, was appointed “Official Trustee'.”

The Right Man For the Work ’"PHIS appointment was not exactly an appointment —it was an inspiration on the part of the Education Department. Mr. Stratton has the physical

equipment to fill this position—he is probably

the biggest man in Manitoba. He can do anything from editing a paper to building a barn, and he can do them equally well ; he cán tell a story like Abraham Lincoln; he has unbpunded faith in humanity, and a genial humor that carries him over the rough places. He is never tired, sick or cross, and if he hasn’t tact he has something better. He has straightforwardness, honesty, and an understanding of human nature. Besides this, he knows every man, woman, child and dog, and the best method of approach in each case. He is a perfect example of the man Kipling wrote about when he said: “Who does not look too good or talk too wise.” Mr. Stratton can address a Sunday school, or a church audience, or a farmers’ gathering, or a trustees’ convention, with equal ease and effectiveness; and the best of his good gifts is that he can fit his style of argument to the intelligence of his hearers.

Addressing a gathering of Polish farmers, among whom he had gone to organize a school, he urged them to give their children the proper equipment for battling with the world. This he held to be a knowledge of the English language, and drcve it home to them in this way—“I’ll go out—chop tree—with big poker— you say—him one fool—you right. Poker—wrong

tool—for chop tree. I need axe—big sharp axe. You send your boy to get job Winnipeg—him talk Polish— no get job—wrong tool. Him talk English—get job— right tool. I not say English language best language in world—maybe it is—maybe not; but anyway, one good tool for make living in this country.”

This simple parable went home, and the school was duly organized without opposition.

Mr. Stratton has a way of meeting difficulties. He does not dodge them or go around them or back up from them. He walks straight over them!

There Was a Meeting!

QNE time in the winter of 1916, he made a trip through Northwestern Manitoba, organizing schools, and in one district the secretary refused to call a meeting of the ratepayers. He had his own ideas about outside influences in school matters.

One of the men of the district brought the word to Mr. Stratton and timidly advised him not to come.

Quite undisturbed, Mr. Stratton replied, “I will be there at 10 o’clock, and there will be a meeting!”

At ten o’clock sharp, Mr. Stratton arrived at the school, and his arrival was not any sharper than the weather, for it was a bitterly cold day.

The school was locked, and there was a death-like stillness brooding over the two farm-houses near by.

Author of “In Times Like These,” “Next of Kin,” etc.

The stillness was so thick, that Mr. Stratton rightly divined that eager eyes were watching him from small eye-holes in* the frosted windows.

Walking around the school-house, he selected a window which was in plain view of both farm-houses, and with some difficulty got it open and climbed in. The window was small and Mr. Stratton is big, but he was determined to enter the school, and he did it some way.

The school was as cold as outside, of course, but there was material for a fire, and soon the eager watchers saw smoke curling up from the chimney.

That brought them!

In a few minutes the key turned in the lock and a group of men walked in. Then the other farm-house sent its delegation, and in half an hour the meeting was opened with exactly fifty present. Mr. Stratton scolded them roundly for not having the fire on, and then proceeded to discuss the business of the day.

At 12 o’clock, when his driver came back for him, the meeting was over.

Before he left, Mr. Stratton was given a vote of thanks. Every man stood up, and the spokesman said, “Mr. Stratton, we want to thank you. Now we know you come for help. You come back again—we have big meeting—you send word—we have school full.”

He overcomes his enemies by making them into friends.

Finding the Right Argument

A NOTHER time he went to a town in Northern Manitoba, where a new school was needed badly. It was a prosperous community, and there was some opposition, on religious grounds. Mr. Stratton knew this, for he had met one of the prominent men of the community—the Reeve—the year before at a convention.

When he arrived in the town and went to the meeting, he found the Reeve in the chair, and he realized that things were looking dark for the new school.

The meeting was largely amended, and Mr. Stratton pleaded for a good school. He knew there were only four English-speaking ratepayers and the by-law was for $12,000, a large sum to devote to a school system, which from their point of view was faulty.

During some desultory discussion, two small boys came to the door. Mr. Stratton was on a front seat, but persuaded the boys to come forward, añd took the

smaller one on his knee. When rising to make his final appeal, he stood the little , • , , , _ , fellow on the

chairman s table, and with his arm around the child began to speak. He thanked them for asking him to the meeting, and then said:

I go round country, I see heap church—lotn churches, maybe more churches than sehoolhousesNot my church—Never mind. I like schoolhouses, me School-houses good. Sometimes I go in your church. "\ou got big church just over there. I go in your church. I see big cross. Sometimes in church-yards, s-unttimes in field, I see cross, too. On cross 'I see figure. You know who I mean—You know what he do down here on this earth? He take boy just like this boy and put him on table before men and say, ‘Men, you want to see Me again, you want to get to Heaven, do you?—Well—you give kid a square deal.’ You expect to see Him some day? I do. He say to me: ‘Stratton, what you do for boy and girl down below, eh?’ I say, ‘I go all over Manitoba, I try to get good schools for everybody’s kid, Ruthenian,. Polish, German, Russian

—everybody. I try to give every kid same chance_

square deal—just what you say!”’

Then, lowering his voice and looking into the faces (ordinarily stolid, but now somewhat stirred), he said—“When He ask you that question—what will you say, eh? Will you say you gave square deal to this kid? Every kid?—Eh?”

Then he left the matter with them.

The vote was entirely satisfactory, being more than four to one for the by-law. After the meeting, Mr. Stratton found that the little chap who had strayed in so providentially was none ether than the son of the chairman, who had formerly been such a critic of the system.

A fourteen thousand dollar school soon graced the site, and with three qualified English-speaking teachers at work developing the Canadian spirit in the little folks, there became a proper occasion for rejoicing in Mr. Stratton’s breast. He is given to saying of this community : “That, if their religion does not prevent them from settling a school problem as a matter of conscience, then I must decline to quarrel with them over their religion. There are a lot of people who think they carry about a better brand of religion, who refuse to apply conscience to a local school problem.”

Can Foreigners Look Like Presbyterians?

1T is Mr. Stratton’s great delight to take visitors to his schools, and especially those who are disposed to doubt the value of educating the “foreigner.” For we have, unfortunately, still a few very excellent people so imbued with the belief that the Anglo-Saxon people are the pets of the Almighty, that they are apt to question the wisdom of giving the foreign child exactly the same chance as we give our own.

Mr. Stratton has had the pleasure of bringing many people to a wiser, saner and kinder conclusion, and one eminent divine, who, while not actively opposing the education of the foreigner, had not shown any enthusiasm over it, was so impressed by the sight of the eager little faces in one of Mr. Stratton’s schools, that he cried out in astonishment to his travelling companion :

“Why they would pass for a group of Scotch Presbyterian children!”

Surely there can be no higher word of praise than that !

Mr. Stratton often says: “If people will only look

into their faces, they will be convinced that it is well worth while to educate them.”

In a certain town in Manitoba, one man said: “Some people think it is not wise tc educate these people.”

Mr. Stratton promptly replied: “I won’t debate the

point with you or with them—If you prove to me that the little fellow whom Christ took in Galilee and placed on an elevation before the men, and said: ‘Suffer the little children to come unto me. and forbid them not,’ and ‘Whosoever causcth one of these little ones to stumble,’—if you will prove that 'hat little fellow was Anglo-Saxon by birth, and spoke English only, there is room for possible debate. But if, as I think, the little fellow was a Jewish lad and spoke Hebrew or Yiddish, and yet stood there as the representative of all the children of all races, all tongues, and all down through the ages, there is no room for

debate. The question is settled!.....We have to

educate these people and make Canadian citizens of

them or Canada will become a country of foreign tandards. What was the use of sending out brave lads to the slaughter over there, trying to save Canada from the tread of a foreign despot, if we let those of non-English birth cherish and maintain foreign standards here? One day, they of non-English descent will outnumber us, and they will make this country what they will. We can make them good Canadians now but there is a time limit. If we who are at home fail to do this, we are unworthy of our sons and brothers and have let them pay too high a price for a temporary freedom. The standard will be the one set up now. We have no choice of time to act. To-morrowmay be too late !”

What Has Been Accomplished OINCE taking office «early four years ago, Mr.

Stratton has built 140 new schools, seventy “Teacherages,” and has 120 or 125 additional Englishspeaking teachers at work in non-English districts.

In one district where a Polish teacher was struggling along with 141 children on the roll, Mr. Stratton found 110 actually present one day. Another day there were 119 in one room, with 35 seated in one corner covering a floor space 10 x 10% feet. He began to agitate for a new school. The second meeting of ratepayers that was called, resulted in a vote of 70 to 19 in favor of a new two-roomed school, and the re-leasing of four sections of land to make another school district near by. The two-roomed school was built, and qualified teachers engaged. Another school in the new district that had been formed was at once built, and a qualified teacher presides there. The

two-roomed school must be enlarged this year. When there is but one room in the school, Mr. Stratton tries 'o get a teacher who can bring her mother or sister to live with her. Sometimes a school is strong enough to make an allowance to the companion in return for her services in teaching sewing, music or some extra subject.

Some idea of the density of the population can be gathered from the Depai*tmental Report of 1918. District No. 1039 comprises 10% sections of land, with three-quarters held by speculators; there were 296 persons under 20 years of age, and all but two families were non-English. In this small district there are two school-rooms and a four-roomed cottage at one point, and, 1% miles away, a third room. Three Canadian teachers occupy the cottage. Three years ago, with 147 on the roll, one poorly qualified teacher of non-English birth was the only ostensibly civilizing influence.

In an area of 40 sections, or say 5 miles by 8, there are nine teachers employed, and all have large classes. This is a farming community where every person gets a living from the soil.

The Choosing of Teachers A ,TR. Stratton has been vex-y fortunate in his choice of teachers, and has had few failures. He likes best of all the two-roomed school where two teachers work together, and the four-roomed teachers’ house, with its comfortable screened-in verandah, and fine garden lot, makes a pleasant home. This year he is arranging to secure cows for teachers who have asked for them, and the cream separator companies have

presented separators to each of them as an advertisement for their goods.

Five acres is often the size of the lot purchased for the new school—“Land and fresh air are two things we should not be mean about,” Mr. Stratton declares, “for we are not short of either of them.” The statutory minimum size of a school site has been increased to three acres.

He does not minimize the hardships when engaging a teacher, and always insists upon having a personal interview. He says he can tell, after half an hour’s conversation with the teacher, if she will “do.”

He tells cf one young lady who applied for a school which he had advertised as requiring a teacher. When she called at his office, the interview was brief, because he was leaving for a train.

Mr. Stratton said: “This school will hardly do for you.”

She asked promptly: “What is the matter with it?”

“Well, it is 14 miles from the station,” said the Official Trustee.

“I’ll be all right when I get there, will I not?” asked the fair applicant.

“Oh yes, but you will not get home until Easter,” was the reply.

“I didn’t expect to return home until July,” was the x-eady response.

“This settlement is what is commonly called foreign,” said the man at the desk.

“I have 40 Ruthenian children on the x-oll where I am,” said the teacher.

Mr. Stratton was keenly interested by this time, Continued on page 75

The Problem of Our New Canadians

Continued from Page 30

and followed with the query: “But

how about boarding with one of these families?”

“It would be all right if they were clean,” was the reply.

“Well, there is a good frame house about a mile and a half from the school,” said the Official Trustee, laying stress on the distance.

“I walk 1% miles to my present school,” bravely replied the teacher.

Then came the climax. Mr. Stratton said: “By the way, there is another house about half a mile from the school, which is said to be a good one. I never saw it. It is Tynko’s house. It ought to be all right. He has been a long time in the country. In fact his father was the first Galician murderer hanged in the West.”

But the teacher was equal to the occasion, and responded: “You can’t

scare me that way. That’s a lesson to Tynko; besides, I have talked with the relatives of a murderer before now, and they did not seem different from other people. They were very much like you—and me—-and besides, I’ve lived 'in a community with persons who should have been hanged.”

Mr. Stratton looked at her and said, “I’ll not send you down there, and I’ll not say you shall not go. I need your sort, all right. Go home for a week and talk with your friends, and I will send a neighboring teacher to look into this question of accommodations. I have an idea that you would make it go—but it is a tough one.”

She did make it go—and taught in two schools before leaving to take her second class normal.

School No. 1863 required a teacher. It was built early in the fall of 1917 and a three-roomed “teacherage” was mentioned in the advertisement as the home of the teacher. It was 18 miles from the railway station.

A qualified teacher came several hundred miles to accept if satisfactory. Her husband was then, and for nearly a year and a half had been, a prisoner of war in Germany, but she wanted to make a contribution towards building citizenship. She wished to go out alone until such time as an elderly friend could arrange to follow. Mr. Stratton asked her: “Will your nerves permit you to rest when out there all alone?” He was informed that they had done so when she was alone on their homestead for six weeks at a time. “Besides, I have a husky dog.”

“Supposing you found yourself sick some morning and had to await the arrival of the children?” she was asked.

She replied, “I have thought about that possibility.”

“How would it affect my plan of houses for teachers, if the daily papers announced some morning that you had been found dead by some of your nonEnglish neighbors?” asked Mr. Stratton.

“I have thought the matter all over. I am not better than our soldiers are. I would like to die working. Some of them fall at their posts, you know, but recruiting goes on!”

She could pot be persuaded to take a school less isolated, but went out and did a great year’s work.

These two cases illustrate the spirit which wins, but do not exhaust the list of those who have faced the situation bravely. There are scores of heroic examples of what these “Light Bearers in Darkness” have done.

TN some of the older schools, the gar-*■ den has been a great feature, and given endless opportunity to interest the older people. These schools are fitted with a coal-oil stove apd kitchen utensils, and the surplus vegetables are picked and canned and stored in a locker for winter use. This work is all done by the pupils, under the direction of the teachers, and in many cases the mothers come to see how it was done. “The children see the whole process and take

part in it,” one of the teachers explained to a party of visitors. “They took the seeds out of the package and planted them; then they watered them, hoed them, weeded them, watered them some more, watched them until they1 were ripe, then picked them, and either ate them or pickled them; and if they were pickled, they helped to eat them, and washed the dishes afterwards.” The articles canned and preserved are used during the winter for helping out the hot lunch.

When the girls and boys get this instruction, it is easy to see that the knowledge of these new arts will be carried home. There are also wonderful displays of sewing in each of the schools, where towels, pillow covers and quilts are made under the direction of the teacher. All these useful arts have impressed the older people, and deepened the conviction that “English school —good thing.” They might have been able to resist the appeal of English literature, but when Polly comes home with a nice new dress made “Cana-' dian,” and is able to make one for her mother, her whole family see that education has some advantages.

That the orthodox purpose of the school is not lost sight of, can be seen in the success of the pupils at the midsummer departmental examinations. In 1918, from four schools where additional accommodation had been provided in 1917, and qualified teachers installed, 26 candidates offered themselves for the entrance to the High School. 25 of them passed, and passed well.

The majority of the people are very appreciative of their schools and the advantages which come from them, and sometimes it has happened that the Anglo-Saxon—Canadian—“Huron and Bruce people” have been the indifferent ones.

The Opinion of the Syrian

IN one district not very far from Winnipeg, the Municipal Council had refused to form a district, when petitioned to do so. One farmer from Ontario had resided there for about 30 years and had three boys, seventeen, nineteen and twenty-two, who could not read or write. He held the foreigners in contempt. A foreign couple with nine children were clamoring for a school. They were planning to move to Winnipeg, rent a room or two and let the mother go out scrubbing while the children went to school. It was at this time that Mr. Stratton visited the district. The sons of the Ontario man expressed themselves very frankly as to their father not securing them a school, and declared that they would go to evening classes if a teacher would conduct same.

The Syrian father—who was quite intelligent and fine-looking—had just met with an injury which cost him a great deal for medical attention and unfitted him for most lines of work. Mr. Stratton had called to see him, and was an interested listener, as the father of nine explained his views on education.

While frying a rabbit for his caller’s dinner, he turned to Mr. Stratton and said: “You Canadian a damn queer people—damn queer people—you raise money, ymu pay missionary for go China—you pay missionary for go India—you not give us any school.”

Mr. Stratton acknowledged the justice of the criticism. He advised the Syrian to put off going to Winnipeg, assuring him that a school would be established, and without delay. Before be left, he rented a cottage, and a teacher was sent. The Syrian children attended the day school, and the young men of Canadian descent took advantage of the evening classes.

’■pHERE may be people who have bet-*ter ideas on the subject of educating new Canadians than Mr. Stratton. There may he. But there is no one putting any better ideas into practice. If they have them—they are still holding them. Mr. Stratton does not hold any ideas. He lets go of them at once, and puts them to work! He’s so busy working them, he has but little time to talk of them, and he has never written any-

thing about his work. When urged to write a series of articles for one of the magazines, he declared he could not do it, for while he was writing he would be neglecting something. This is the story he told to illustrate the point:

A tenderfoot one time went out to hunt bear. His great desire was to get a grizzly, and he engaged the services of a real old seasoned hunter, who one day found “tracks.” There they were—

in the snow—real grizzly bear tracks!

“Where do you suppose he is now?” cried the tenderfoot in his excitement, to his guide.

His guide was cool, and very deliberate. Grizzly tracks were an old story to him.

“I reckon—he’s right at the front end of them bracks—makin’ more!”

“That’s where I am,” said Mr. Stratton—“and I can’t stop!”