Does Canada Want Population?

We Could Have Hundred Million in Next Generation and Be Ruined in Getting Them

STEPHEN LEACOCK November 15 1922

Does Canada Want Population?

We Could Have Hundred Million in Next Generation and Be Ruined in Getting Them

STEPHEN LEACOCK November 15 1922

Does Canada Want Population?

We Could Have Hundred Million in Next Generation and Be Ruined in Getting Them


IN THE newer countries people always take an interest in the question of population. Ask an English inhabitant of Durham or York or Nottingham what is the population of his city and you will find that he doesn’t know. He may have a vague idea of the population of England — within about ten or twenty millions: and probably be aware that there are far fewer people in Scotland than in England. But on the whole the subject fails to interest him.

But ask a Canadian resident of—let us say—Edmonton, what, is the population of his city and he knows it to a man. He will tell you that the last fédérai census gave it 58,627 people, but that the census was wrong because there was a big picnic going on outside the town limits (or a circus performing twenty miles away) and a lot of the residents strayed away and never got counted. This he tells you with great indignation. It is a matter that hits him where he lives.

In the same way when one talks of the total population of Canada we are all interested, every good Canadian from Halifax to Vancouver, as to the increase of it in the future. We have an intense eagerness to have it grow and swell till the Chinese and the Hindus and even the equatorial negroes are not in it with us. I remember the peculiar glow of gratitude that illuminated the Canadian press somewhere about 1910 when good old Lord Strathcona prophesied that there would be 100,000,000 people in the Dominion before this century ran out. We felt that Lord Strathcona was a pretty wise old man and that if he had made a fortune he had amply deserved it.

So when the Editor of this magazine suggested to me that I should do an article on the probable increase of the population of Canada, I felt that I had got a subject that would appeal to his readers right away,—and incidentally he had, just for once, struck a subject about which I really knew something.

Here is the obvious basis of the subject. Canada has an area of 3,729,665 square miles. In it there are 8,772,000 people. That makes 2.35 people to the square mile. The most populous countries have easily 500 to the square mile. Therefore Canada can “hold” 4,859,664,000 people. The population that is now here can double itself by natural increase once in every twenty-five years. Even before the war there were 2,000,000 persons every year migrating out of Europe. There is no reason why they shouldn’t all come to Canada. Suppose they do. Then with a little figuring and with the help of a few mathematical tables, we can easily show that the population of Canada in the year 2000 will be one billion souls— or thereabouts. But this kind of reasoning, though it is the kind usually applied, won’t fit the case. We shall have to overhaul it at every stage till in the end there is nothing left of it but the outline.

Arctics Won’t Be Crowded

’ I 'AKE the area first. It is true that the area of the Dominion is 3,729,665 square miles. But 500,000 of it represents the Arctic islands. Population up there is never going to jostle itself the way it does on the banks of the Yang-Tse-Kiang. Vilhjalmur Stefansson is fond of telling us that even up in Baffin Island and Banks Island they have green grass and mosquitoes and something like a good old summer time illuminated day and night. But I will prophesy, as prediction No. 1, that we can leave out of count altogether the increase of population in the Arctic regions. I would say the same for a great part, though not all, of the territory north of the parallel of sixty degrees where the top side of Manitoba ends in the Barren Ground and where what was once Labrador and is now Quebec gets icier and icier till the trees die out on the shores of Ungava Bay.

But even above the parallel of sixty degrees there the valley of the Yukon where mineral wealth will repay the hardships of life and the valley of the Mackenzie, a wooded country rich perhaps in oil and probably as capable of human settlement as the highlands of Scotland. British Columbia is probably habitable and usable from top to bottom; Alberta and Saskatchewan but little less; though Manitoba, even to the patriotic eye, includes an upper portion that looks pretty dubious.

But it must be remembered that even in the crowded countries there are lonely and unfertile spots. London is full of people, but one may walk in solitude upon the moors of Yorkshire and Devon. France has 184.4 people to the

Births in European Cities per 1,000 Women of Child Bearing Age (The figures are not recent)

Paris Berlin Vienna London

Very Poor Quarters ...... 108 157 200 147

Poor ..................... 95 129 164 140

Comfortable .............. 73 114 155 107

Very Comfortable ........ 65 96 153 107

Rich ..................... 53 63 107 87

Very Rich ............... 34 47 71 63

square mile, but contains even at that broad stretches of moor and sand and marsh with nothing human in sight.

Taking it by and large, and viewing in a broad way the area of the Canadian provinces (with the territories left out) and considering their general soil and fertility and resources, there seems no reason why the three western provinces should not carry as large a population as the same area in northern Europe. Manitoba one places on a lower scale; from Ontario and Quebec one might place out of court (for conservatism’s sake) a vast northern area and still leave for each of them a fertile territory as big as the German Empire.

Our Potential Area

FEW people have undertaken seriously to make an estimate of the kind that I am indicating. The best thing of the sort of which I know is an admirable survey of our national domain and resources presented to the Royal Society by my distinguished colleague Dean Adams of McGill University, in his presidential address of 1914. As a factor in the problem Dean Adams discusses how great is the amount of land in Canada that is suited for farming and grazing purposes.

“A recent writer,” he says, “has stated that a conservative and easily grasped statement is that ‘the farm lands of Canada would fill a strip of country the width of France, and 3,000 miles long.’ Canada is 3,000 miles across from ocean to ocean and France 400 miles wide. This would give to the farming land of the Dominion an area of 1,200,000 square miles. If anyone who is well acquainted with Canada will draw a line parallel to the southern boundary of Canada but 400 miles distant from it, he will find that there is not very much farming land to the north of this line, while there are vast tracks of country on which we should be sorry to be obliged to engage in farming to the south of it.

“Another authority states that the area of land which is used for farming and grazing purposes in the Dominion at the present time may be set down at 50,000,000 acres, and that a conservative estimate would make the area available for these purposes six times as great, that is to

Comparative Table of the Census Figures of the Dominion of Canada

say, 300,000,000 acres or about 570,000 square miles. This smaller estimate which includes not only farming but grazing land, is probably too low but near the truth.”

To this area of land we must add the extent of the country, whatever it is, on which the population is supported, by the fisheries, by the mines, and by systematic (i.e. permanent) forestry. On all these bases industries will be founded at strategic points, the manufacturing centres in which a vast amount of the population, probably one half, will be crowded.

As a modest and cautious judgment we may look upon Canada as representing a fertile country (as good one square mile with another as the great states of Europe,) embracing 1,000,000 square miles. This is much reduced from the original 3,729,665, but is still immense. Itisnine times the area of the British Isles and as big as France, Germany, Spain, Portugal. Italy, Norway, Denmark, Belgium, Holland and Switzerland all put together.

If it was inhabited with the average density of Western Europe, it would hold 165,000,000 people.

Population in Western Europe

Country Area Population

France ........... 212,659 39,601,509

Germany ......... 250,471 59,857,283

Spain ............ 194,783 20,783,844

Denmark ......... 17,144 3,289,195

Sweden .......... 173,035 5,552,403

Belgium ,........., 11,744 7,684,272

Pop. Per Sq. Mile 184.4 318. 106.6 192. 34.1 670.

What Will be Natural Increase?














1825 1834 1842 1844 1848 1852 1861


1871 1881 1891 1901 1911 1921










Ontario N.S. N.B. B.C.



P.E.I. Alta. Sask. N.W.T. Total







890.261 852,004 276,854 193,800

1,111.566 1,396,091 330,857 252,047

1,191,516 1,620,851 387,800 285,594 1,359,027 1,926,922 440,572 321,233 1,488,535 2,114,321 450,396 321,263




10,586 12,228 94,021

36,247 25,228 94,021 49,459 62,260 108,891 98,173 152,506 109,078

48,000 3,689,257 56,446 4,324,810 98,967 4,833,239

1,648,898 2,182,947 459,574 331,120 178,657 255,211 103,259 73,022 91,379 47,348 5,371,315

2,003,232 2,523,274 492,338 361,889 392,480 455,614 93,728 374,663 492,432 26,993 7,206,643

2,349,067 2,922,000 524,579 388,092 523,369 613,008 88,536 581,995 761,390 6,684 8,772,000

TTERE, then, is a first conclusion of our prophecy.

There is obviously room for a vast increase of numbers in the Dominion, undoubtedly for more people than any one would suppose to be likely to come.

There hangs the question. Granted that there is room, how great will the increase be by the multiplication of those already here, and by the incoming of new waves of immigration?

Let us consider “natural increase” first, meaning thereby the excess of births over deaths in a settled population. Ever since the Reverend Robert Malthus wrote his celebrated essay on population, a century and a quarter ago, people have been fond of reckoning up, with something like awe, the marvellous potential increase of population represented by the rfatural fecundity of the human race. Population, as the Malthusian is never tired of repeating, increases in a “geometrical ratio.” The added part itself increases. Hence the total does not add itself up; it multiplies itself.

This same law of increase runs all through the organic world of plants and animals. A grain of seed of many of our ordinary plants will produce one hundred like itself, and each of these, three months later, a hundred more, and so on, ad infinitum. All the plant needs is room enough and the right conditions and one grain of wheat will in a few short years cover the whole earth with a dense tangle of vegetation. But it never gets the chance. It is always in fierce conflict with the similar expanding forces of other organic growths. Out of this struggle for existence is fashioned the world as we know it.

The increase of human beings is no exception to the rule. It is everywhere cut off by other forces. Under favorable conditions the white races of Western civilization are found to increase at a raté that means doublingthe population every twentyfive years. But the conditions must be favorable. There must be an easy access for all to the means of production and children must be a blessing and not a burden. Such was the case in the old colonial days. There was room and food for all and to spare, and a widow with three or four growing children was a matrimonial prize. Under such conditions the population of the American colonies,’ even apart from immigration, grew apace.

This maximum rate of increase would give us from the 8,000,000 people now in Canada in 1920, without any regard to new incomers, a population of 16,000,000 in 1945, of 32,000,000 in 1960 and 64,000,000 in Continued on page 50

Does Canada Want Population?

Continued from page 20

! 1985, and of 128,000,000 by the year 2020.

If we were to add to this an immigration based on the average from 1900 to 1914, I namely 202,326 people per annum and the similar increase of immigrants, it is clear that in a hundred years Canada would surpass British India in the density of the population.

Increase of French Canadians

1665 1681 1692 1706 1721


Even allowing for some immigration,

I the rate of increase is remarkably large.

But these are potentialities only. The facts are far different. The question of the rate of increase of the human race has received serious reconsideration since Malthus wrote his gloomy essay. Factors of which he took no account are vital to the present situation. It is growing very doubtful whether the highly civilized races, or at least whether those portions of them which are highly civilized, are going to increase at all. Under our economic circumstances in proportion as humanity struggles toward comfort, independence and intellectual life, it ceases to breed. It multiplies most rapidly in the gutter. There is abundant evidence that our civilization keeps dying out at the top. Professor Taussig of Harvard has gathered together recently in his admirable work on Political Economy a great deal of interesting evidence on this point. There seems to be no doubt, he says, that marriage takes place later among the well-to-do classes than among the working people. And not only is the age of marriage later but the number of children, born to the rich, even proportionately to the years of marriage, is fewer than the number born to the poor.

Illustrative Statistics Gathered in England About 1890

3,215 1734 37,716

9,677 1754 55,009

12,431 1765 69,300

16,417 1790 155.000

24,951 1844 524,244

increase of our population will be in the lower ranks and in such agricultural communities as, notably, in French Canada, reproduce still the older environment. This is a very serious proposition since the “mind” of Canada, the intellectual development and the directing force is very largely found among this non-increasing section of the population. In other words, if our population is to undergo any great and striking increase it must be from the immigration of new-comers: and this will be seen to carry with it consequences not altogether favorable for our final destiny.

Let us turn then to this question of migration. The great immigration out of Europe to the new world was a phenomenon that only began in the middle of the nineteenth century. There is much misunderstanding on this point. When the American colonies were first established the settlers came in considerable groups, as for example the Massachusetts Bay settlement of 1628. But after the first coming the rate of migration was never great, not comparable to the natural increase. At the time of the American revolution the number of people who came each year to settle in the colonies (which had then a population of 3,000,000) was not more than two or three thousand a year. This annual immigration, in other words, was only one in a thousand, or one tenth of one per cent, of the population. The newly-migrated class counted as nothing in the direction of the country.

Compare this with what happened in 1913 when 402,000 new-comers were added to a population of 7,250,000 people. The comparison speaks volumes. Add to it the fact that to these poor immigrants is largely entrusted the job of breeding children and the volume bulks larger still. The great wave of Euiopean migration that began in the middle century was largely economic. People fled from famine and poverty to a country where there was “bread and work for all.” The famine in Ireland in the middle of the ’forties sent out millions of stricken survivors to swell the population of the United States.

Age of Marriage in Different Classes.

Bachelors Spinsters 24

Miners Artisans Shopkeepers Professional and independent classes




22 4




As far as I am aware no precise statistics have been gathered in Canada dealing with the relative unfertility of the well-todo class, but it is a matter of common observation that the tendencies noted elsewhere are at work among us too. There is no reason to think that the educated and influential population of the Canadian towns and cities is going to increase at anything more than a very modest

For example, the statistics for Ontario for the excess of births over deaths computed for a five year average (19061910) showed that the population of that province would take seventy years to double itself. The rate was slower than in England or Germany or most of the countries in Europe, except Spain, Ireland, Belgium, and France. It is altogether likely that the same tendency is largely operative even in the country population, in proportion as farm life becomes even more and more interwoven with the life of the city. The child who has been squeezed out from the city “apartment” as a useless burden obnoxious to the landlord, will be presently driven off the farm. His little tasks of olden days when he scared the crows and gleaned the corn have been rudely stolen from him by the all-devouring machine, whose slaves we are. His only recourse is back again to Heaven, whence by a change of soul he can be reborn into the jungle or the gutter or some place where humanity still breeds. The plain truth is that in the respectable classes of society married people prefer a Ford car to a baby.

The truth, then, at which I am trying to drive, is this, that as far as the increase of the present well-to-do population of Canada is concerned there is little need to calculate it. There probably will be but little, perhaps none. The natural

The Migrating Surplus of Europe Based on Figures of 1903

Austria-Hungary ............ 222,218

Belgium ................... 2,101

Denmark ................... 8,214

England and Wales.......... 177,581

Germany ................. 351.453

Holland .................... 2,963

Ireland ........ 45,568

Italy ...................... 292,033

Norway .................... 26,784

Portugal ................... 21,291

Russia ................... 140,211

Scotland .................... 36,901

Sweden ..................... 35,975

Switzerland ............... 4.669

The great wave of migration to the United States in the middle of the nineteenth century was the result of famine and revolution in Europe. Here are the figures:

1845 114,371

1846 154,416

1847 234,968

1848 226,527

1849 297,024

1850 369,980

1851 379,466

1852 371,603

1853 368,645

1854 427,833

The migration was also political. People fled from tyranny in Europe to freedom in the new world. Migration was welcomed, going or coming. The uppermost idea in America was “let them all come.” The chief thought in Europe was “let them all go.” It was part of the economic ideas of the time that emigration out of the British Isles was the best thing for Britain. John Stuart Mill regarded it as one of the best remedies against pauperism. Where the people went, it didn’t seem to matter: so long as they went willingly and were happy when they got there, let them go. This was part of the cosmopolitanism of the days of Richard Cobden and John Bright, noble in its ideal but sadly false to fact.

In the United States and in Canada, then, immigration was welcomed because it seemed—and indeed it was true— that immigration brought with it money and wealth and the development of the country. The racial or ethnographic side

of it was not considered. There was a convenient theory of the “melting pot,” whereby if you put 10,000 Prussians into Alberta or Saskatchewan and “melted” them, they melted down into Canadians.

Migration therefore was stimulated and encouraged.

The largest share of it went to the United States. Here was, par excellence. the land of opportunity rich as the world had never known before, and the principal magnet which drew the immigrant was the attraction of free land. Under the homestead laws millions of settlers poured into the valley of the Mississippi and took up lands in Illinois, Kansas, Iowa, and the fertile territory of the middle

The great wave of migration thus set in motion showed no sign of slackening up to the eve of the great war. Indeed the statistics of the annual emigration from Europe to the United States reach their highest point in the period just upon the war. In the nineteenth century years of highest record, indicating the rise and fall of successive waves, were 1850 with 369,000 immigrants; the year 1873 with 459,000; and the year 1892, an era of hard times in Europe, with a migration of 679,663. But in the twentieth century the million mark was repeated, reached and even considerably exceeded. From the table printed herewith it appears that in each of six different years more than a million immigrants landed and in the years 1907 and 1914 more than a million and a quarter.

But meantime a new phenomenon was added. The immigration into Canada, which in earlier decades showed no comparison with that of the United States, began to show a vast increase. In the year 1898 when 229,299 immigrants came to the United States only, about 31,900, one-eighth, arrived in Canada. But in 1913 when the United States immigrants numbered 1,197,892, those arriving in Canada reached the amazing total of 402,432, more than one-third as many.

The reason is not far to seek and is full of meaning for the future. The opening of the Canadian North-west offered a new and almost boundless area of free land to the incoming population at the very time when the free farm land of the United States was running towards the point of exhaustion. Some time indeed had been needed after the establishment of Manitoba and the passage of the first Homestead Ant before the European settlers were drawn in that direction. Time is needed for so vast a change. But once the movement set in it grew apace, and the increasing difficulty of obtaining free farm lands in the United States constantly accelerated it.

In the five years from 1909 to 1914 not a single acre of homestead land was allotted in Indiana or Iowa. In North-west Canada during the same period 130,000,000 acres were taken up as homesteads. Even before the war it had become abundantly clear that the disposable population of Europe was likely to move in overwhelming numbers into Canada.

The Great Wave of Immigration, 1898-1914


















To U.S. 229.299 311,715 449,572 487,918 648,743 857,046

812.870 1,026,499 1,100,735 1,285.349

782.870 751,786

1.041,570 878,587 838,172 1,197,892 1,218.480

To Canada 31,900 44,543 23,895 49,149 67,379 128,364 130,331 146.266 189,064 124,667 252,469 146,908 208.794 31 1,084 354,237 402,432 384.878

Discarding the Melting Pot

SINCE 1914 many things have happened and the mind of humanity has changed upon many points. The whole question of immigration is being reconsidered and the “melting pot” theory is itself thrown into the melting pot. A new stress is being laid upon nationality, national differences and the political value of the tie of blood relationship. To many people the teaching of the great war seems to be that the people of our own blood and nation are the only ones whose interests and affections are fully

in sympathy with our own. That the nation as such must still be the basis of the world organization and the instrument of its progress. This may be good teaching or it may be bad. I am neither defending it nor attacking in this place. I am only citing it as one of the obvious facts of our environment. It must be admitted of course that to many minds the real teaching of the war is in a contrary sense. To such able thinkers as Sir Philip Gibbs and Norman Angel and Professor J Keynes, it appears that the world must either become cosmopolitan or perish; that we must learn to treat all men as brothers or become as wolves in the wilderness feeding on one another. From such a point of view the League of Nations appears as the hope of the world, and nationality, in its extreme sense, as its principal danger. Meanwhile to accentuate the situation, modern science begins to throw grave doubts on the ethj nological aspect of the melting pot; races, it appears cannot be mixed and amalgamated and fused like drugs in a shaken bottle. Conjoin them as you will and the racial characteristics run like streaks in a rock. East and West, white and brown, can never join, and even among the nations of Europe great rifts of difference appear not to be obliterated by learning the Declaration of Independence in English.

The Nordic races of the north, tall blond, heroic; the Alpine races of the middle, bullet-headed and short, and the Mediterranean races of the South can not —so certain scientists begin to tell us— unite into a single type, or must at least in doing so pass through a mongrel stage (of a few centuries, let us say) of a sunken and inferior development.

Now, strangely enough, the earlier immigration to North America was made up chiefly of the Nordic race. A little also even came to colonial New England. Even in the migration of the middle nineteenth century the Nordic race greatly predominated. In the year 1851 for example the immigrants from Great Britain, overwhelmingly Nordic, were (approximately) 352,365; those from the nonNordic areas if Italy, trance, Belgium, Spain and Portugal were (approximately) 35,105.

But at the time the twentieth century was reached the movement was all the other way. In 1914 there came to the United States 278,000 immigrants from j Austria-Hungary, 255,000 from Russia, 265,000 from Italy, and from England only 25,000, from Scotland 10,000, and from Ireland 24,000.

No Longer is Door Wide Open

AS A result of all these forces opinion is changing. The cry is no longer “let them all come.” In many quarters it is changed to “shutthem.ail out,” and everywhere a policy of caution and at least of partial restriction is advocated. The powerful weight of organized labor is thrown into the scales. The economic teaching of the labor union is largely against the admission of immigration. Labor, if one may personify it, always sees with one eye only. Sometimes it sees amazingly far, further than the national ruling class who may happen at the moment to be totally blind. But as a rule it sees the foreground of immediate effects rather than the background of ultimate consequences. Immigration, whatever its racial or political consequences may be, undoubtedly increases national wealth. The pauper immigrant draws the capital of the world. But labor sees in him nothing but an extra man competing for a job; and in hard times when jobs are few labor wants the immigrant shut out.

Hence the opinion at the moment is divided. Labor wants no immigration. The capitalist class, including the shareholders great and small, wants immigration let in. The ethnologist is afraid of it, unless it comes from the races and places that it refuses to come from. The statesman will no longer have it if it is Russian or Bulgarian, Turkish or Austrian or Bolshevik or Arabic or anything that doesn’t know the British flag when it sees it. And the great war veterans are prepared to knock its head off when it gets here if it doesn’t behave itself.

Meantime the stream of immigration ready to flow out of Europe is probably far greater than ever before. Before the war as the accompanying tables show there were at least two million Europeans on the move every year. No figures are

available—or could be—to show how many are willing to come now if they are given the opportunity. But judging by the enormous stimulus to migration that was given in the nineteenth century by war, revolution and famine, the most conservative guess would he that at least double the old number would be available.

Four million people per annum would certainly come, in all likelihood far more. And if we still cared to adopt our former policy of soliciting their coming, aiding their passage, feeding them with free doughnuts and coffee in the emigration sheds and endowing them with land, we could draw 2,000,000 per annum into Canada.

In such a case our children could easily live to see the time when Canada would contain 100,000,000 people—and be ruined in the process of getting them.

There stands the problem of our increase of population. We can speed it up as we like. The whole thing becomes simply a matter of public policy. And having thus presented as a scientist the data of the problem to be solved, I pass it on to my esteemed friend the Hon. W. L. Mackenzie King. Let him solve it.