Disclosing an English pedagogue’s appalling enthusiasm for this Never Never Land of ours
COLONEL A. E. KIRKPATRICK
I HAVE often asked myself the question: “Why is it that men and women from the Old Country display such appalling ignorance of Canada and things Canadian?”
It is rather sad to realize that such ignorance must be put down to misrepresentation on the part of those who ought to know better. Something must surely be lacking in the educational system of the Old Land, which is, and has been, producing results that are almost tragic in their consequences to the Empire generally and to Canada in particular.
For many years Canadians have been trying to persuade the excess population of Great Britain and Ireland to come to Canada and help us build a great British nation in this half of the Continent. We have tried, and are still trying, to persuade British capitalists to come and see it for themselves, and use some of their surplus wealth in building our industries; but despite all our efforts there appears to be a lukewarmness toward Canada and things Canadian, which is distressing to those of us who love our British connection, and mourn to see it endangered through no fault of our own but through a policy of dislike or neglect on the part of many of the people and a goodly portion of the Press in the Old Land.
Ourselves As Others See Us
WHY is it that after Canada’s great effort in the World War, only some 50,000 British people migrated to Canada in the last twelve month period, while during the same year 100,000 from the British Isles stood humbly, hat in hand, waiting for the quota to admit them to the United States? It cannot be entirely the climate, for parts of the Province of Ontario, greater in extent than England and Scotland, lie south of one-third of the United States, and enjoy a much more equable climate than is encountered in onethird of the whole of that country. In British Columbia there is a territory as large as France with a climate much milder and more equable than that of England and Scotland.
The most vivid recollections are those of childhood. All of us can remember the impressions we gained in our earliest years, and it is astonishing with what tenacity we cling to the often erroneous teachings we imbibed at school.
I wonder how many of our great Canadians who were born and brought up in the Old Country can remember the sinister impressions they gained of Canada in their school days. The courage they displayed in coming to this region of ice and snow is, to me, simply astounding.
I have in my hands Our Empire Overseas by H. W. Palmer, of Richmond County School. It is published by Blackie & Son, of London, Glasgow and Bombay. The current edition 1924, reprinted 1926, is still used in many schools throughout Great Britain and Ireland, and purports to be an historical and geographical history of the British Empire, the geography being treated originally so as to impress on the pupils the phenomena connected with climate. Some extracts from this current work make amazing reading for Canadians. The presentation of facts therein seems almost incredible, but is possibly among the causes for a statement on the report of the Select Standing Committee which considered immigration and colonization at the 1928 session of Parliament, which refers to the fact that it costs Canada $16.67 for each British immigrant that comes to Canada in a given period, and only eleven cents per capita for those from the Continent of Europe.
Pages 38, 39 and 40 of this extraordinary book are devoted to a glorious description of Canada’s climate. Highly paid secret service propagandists in the pay of some competing nation could do no better. It reads so smoothly, it sounds so genuine, but it damns Canada and the Canadian climate to everlasting perdition. I wish I had the pen to describe in such glowing language the cold and suffering we poor Canadians endured on Salisbury Plains in 1914-1915.
But let us read what this writer has to say. In discussing “Climate” on page 38, he informs the child:
“In such a vast territory there are great differences in climate. Speaking generally, it may be said that the country has a climate of extremes ...”
“In the centre, snow is the rule throughout the winter, and one may have to guard one’s face and fingers from the bite of frost many degrees below zero. When once winter sets in, it seldom relaxes its hold or plays such freaks as it does with us. For months together the cold is greater than our coldest snap of frost. Yet it is more bearable. The dryness of the air and the settled weather make i even pleasurable to the hardy. Winter is the Canadian’s holiday, the merriest time of the year. The snowed-up inhabitants lay themselves out to have a good time.”
And now follows the story as it might have been told by our pioneers of sixty or seventy years ago.
“Outdoor work ceases unless where there is lumber or produce to be hauled over the snow. Once its surface has hardened, the whole country is turned into a playground, about which people can skim freely in tinkling sleighs, on skates along the rivers, and over the lakes in ice yachts with sails for wings. Long journeys are made, and visiting is done more easily and agreeably than through the dust and heat of summer. Snow shoes, like tennis bats, help them cross the plains covered with dry powdered snow. Toboggan runs are made artificially where no slopes offer a slide; and in cities fairy palaces are built of ice as scenes for torchlight revels. It is a merry time for youngsters who can enjoy, to their hearts’ content, months of skating, sliding, snowballing and other games on the ice. When the long frost breaks up in April or May, spring comes with extraordinary rapidity. The bursting of the ice in great rivers sounds like thunder, and the sweeping along of the broken ice often causes destruction. Should it get jammed together, or floating timber choke the course of the stream the enormous volume of pent-up water bursts through in a flood, sweeping everything before it.”
The Frozen Haymaker
THE terrors of life on the plains are very well depicted in the first two paragraphs of page 40. “Summer comes so hot that in the south maize, melons, grapes, peaches and tomatoes grow in the open air; while wheat flourishes within a few degrees of the Arctic Circle, the sun there making up in length of days for the shortness of the season. Yet snaps of icy cold sometimes occur, and a haymaker has been frozen to death on the plains; for the nights are often intensely cold in exposed or lofty situations.” The haymaker story must have caused the inventor great joy in the telling.
But let us continue: “The summer has its annoyances in dust and mud, and in clouds of stinging insects. There are prairie farms where haymaking has tó be done at night, because men dare not encounter the swarms of bloodthirsty insects brought out by the sun.”
Remembering again that this book is supposed to be modern, having been reprinted in 1926, one is interested to learn what the author has to say about the great City of Montreal, with its present population of over a million people.
On page 49, we read as follows:
“The largest and busiest place in the Province is Montreal, about 170 miles higher up the river than Quebec. It is the business capital of Canada, and every native industry is carried on in it, from meat packing to the production of wood pulp.
“The city stands on an island between the two mouths of the Ottawa River, where it joins the St. Lawrence; and its harbor, extending for miles down the river, is one of the finest in America. It has a population of over 270,000, a little more than half of these being of French origin. Montreal has many notable buildings. Some of the churches are very fine. One of them, Notre Dame, is capable of seating 10,000 worshippers.
“The river is two miles or so broad, and is crossed by a long railway bridge that counts as a wonder for length, but in the winter the people have only to lay rails on the ice and be carried across to the opposite bank.’’ One can almost see President Beatty of the C.P.R. in his Eskimo suit of fur bossing the job.
Speaking of the Canadian forests on page 50, the author lets his imagination run riot until we seem to be reading a quotation from a child’s book describing frontier life in the early part of the eighteenth century. Perhaps some of my readers may recognize it as culled somewhere from Fenimore Cooper:
“There is something very striking in these dark woods, often as silent and unbroken as when none but the fierce Indian stole through them on his errands of slaughter. Few singing birds are found in their depths. By day all is fearsomely still, save for a raven croaking, a woodpecker tapping, or some shy beast of prey rustling through the undergrowth. It is in the darkness that the forest wakes up with the howl of the wolf, the hoot of the owl, the blood-curdling screech of the panther,” (Why not add the roar of the lion and the trumpeting of the elephants?), “the ceaseless hum of the mosquito, or the hideous croaking of frogs. Among these on winter nights may ring out suddenly a crack like the report of a gun, telling how the frost has broken the heart of some old pine.
“The maple is noticeable for the glory of its autumn tints—scarlet, gold, purple and yellow. In early spring its leafless trunk supplies the sap which is boiled down into maple sugar, a favorite sweetmeat all over North America. Other trees yield a tough gum, which Canadian boys and girls are fond of chewing.
“The first work of the original settler was to make a ‘clearing’ for his fields. Nowadays there are machines for rooting out the stumps of trees as a dentist pulls teeth; but not every farmer can afford such luxuries. He has mostly to cut out a ring of bark round the trees and leave them to decay and fall in their own time, or to fell them with the axe. This is usually done in winter, when no other work can be done. If in a hurry to clear the ground with the least trouble, he may simply set fire to the wood, leaving the ground for a time covered with rows of blackened stumps, among which he has to guide his plough.” Have you no sympathy with the poor kids who have to learn his stuff?
Deserted Yonge Street
/CITIZENS of Toronto will be delighted ^ to know what the author has to say about this city of 800,000 people. On page 53, the author tells us that “Toronto, the flourishing capital of Ontario, and the second city of the Dominion, is situated on the north shore of Lake Ontario. The ‘Queen of the West,’ as it is sometimes called, is of recent growth, for little more than 100 years ago it was a wood wilderness, the haunts of the wild beast and red Indian.
“The streets of the city are broad and are laid out in straight lines. One of them, Yonge Street, stretches far beyond the town into the open country, although for a distance of thirty miles there are no buildings on it.” (Forty years ago there were fifty-eight taverns on that thirtymile stretch). “But Toronto means to grow. It is an enterprising city. Already it has large iron foundries, mills, railway works, pork-packing establishments, carriage factories and distilleries. It makes annually great shipments of grain, livestock, fruit, flour, and many other things, and boasts a population of over 200,000.”
The description of Ottawa will recall pleasant memories in the minds of its oldest inhabitants.
“Ottawa is a very interesting city, finely situated on a height overlooking the river of the same name, and crowned with the really noble block of Parliament Buildings. It is the centre of the lumber trade, and has many sawmills and factories for turning wood pulp into paper. The mills are driven by water power derived from falls in the river above the town, and are engaged day and night in sawing logs into planks in such quantities that they seem enough to roof in the whole world.’ ”
On pages 62 and 63, Manitoba, which developed so rapidly in manufacturing that recent statistics show that the value of the output of its manufacturing industries is equal to the value of its agricultural products, is, according to the writer, a land that seems to be one great wheat field; but lest somebody might be attracted to come to this great wheatfield, the last paragraph in the chapter (page 63) reiterates the terrors of the plains, and he tells us “that the chief thing to be said about Manitoba is the intense cold of its winter. Yet the hard winter is not attended with serious discomfort to hardy people, for the air is dry and invigorating. It is worst when the snow comes driving from the icy north with the stormy force and fearful cold of a howling blizzard.”
Moving across Canada to the great city of Vancouver, with its towering skyscrapers and magnificent hotels, we find that the city is now the largest in the Province, having a population of over 60,000 inhabitants. I think the 250,000 inhabitants of greater Vancouver will be interested in these reminiscences of the olden days.
Our Wood-Burning Engines
BUT the railways, as described on pages 71 and 72, present, perhaps, the greatest terror that has yet to be presented to the youth of the Old Land.
How interested the directors of our two great railways, each of which is entitled to rank among the largest commercial undertakings in the civilized world, will be to read the following. I presume the author is speaking of England when he says: “In our thickly
populated country railways are made very carefully with all precaution against injuring people or property. In Canada they go straight ahead through forests, over open prairies, and even along the streets of towns, without so much as a fence to shut them in. Persons walking or driving have to look out for themselves; and the locomotive has in front of it an apparatus for catching and throwing off any stupid cow that may have strayed on to the line. Even the shape of the engines is odd to our eyes. They are usually built with a curious funnel, wider at the top than at the bottom, to let out freely the smoke of the wood they often have to burn instead of coal.” Shades of our grandfathers, I am telling you just what he says!
“In winter the trains may be stopped by heavy storms, the snow, sometimes twenty feet deep, drifting on to a line. Then the engine will have a machine called a snowplow in front of it, by help of which it clears its way through the snow. When the drift is very great, several engines may be employed to clear the track in a singular fashion. Two or more of them are coupled together and push themselves into the snow, another following behind to pull them back out if they stick fast. In the Rocky Mountains parts of the line have to be covered by long sheds, to protect them from avalanches of snow that come bounding down from the heights.”
“In summer the danger is fire. A train may push across a burning prairie through smoke so thick that the passengers are almost stifled. But in a blazing forest, there is the risk that a fallen trunk or branch may at any moment block the line and throw the train off the rails.
“Another cause that seems small enough sometimes brings a train to a standstill. The rail becomes covered by such a multitude of worms or insects, that the wheels get greasy with crushing them and will not turn.”
And that is the sort of stuff your child would be compelled to swallow if you lived in England, and he as a wise child, and you as a wise parent, would close the book with a sigh and say: “Well, certainly, wherever we may emigrate to, it won’t be to that God-forsaken country.”
To you in the Old Land, who are the senior partners in our great Empire, I say: “Revise your schoolbooks, teach your children the truth, not mischievous lies: and if you will tell them half the truth of Canada’s greatness and loyalty, they will come to Canada in thousands and solve your problem and ours.”
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