There Is a Frozen North
A forthright reply to Vilhjalmur Stefansson’s contention that the Canadian North has been much maligned by Canadian textbooks
IN THE November 15, 1929, issue of MacLean’s Magazine appeared an article by Vilhjalmur Stefansson in which the explorer stated with emphasis that Canadian school textbooks were giving an altogether false idea of the North. Mr. Stefansson’s experience and reputation demand that the fullest attention be given to any article he writes. I have spent several months in giving that article careful attention, and my investigations lead to the conclusion that it is unsound.
In my search for the information on which this article is based, I studied charts produced by the government meteorological office, American and Canadian schoolbooks, records of previous Arctic explorers, and newspaper reports of present-day aviators and explorers lost in the lands which are persistently called “barren.” From this accumulation of evidence I am forced to maintain my belief that the North is frozen, although Mr. Stefansson eloquently tries to prove that its climate is as attractive as that of Bermuda.
I was at first naturally very much concerned on reading of the danger that Mr. Stefansson declares is threatening our schools within the boundaries of Canada itself. It is not enough that Canada’s manhood is being sapped by her seductive neighbor, but Mr. Stefan.sson would now make us believe that she is being further weakened by those who stay within her boundaries and lend a thought to the upbringing of her children. He makes the alarming assertion that Canadian books, in discussing the northern part of the North American continent, go wrong three times as often as those produced in the United States. This may be true, or even an understatement, for my experience is that American books are strangely silent on any geographical subject that means giving information about the land north of the international boundary line.
I cannot claim to be either geographer or explorer. I have no personal experience of the North to draw upon, but I am sufficiently confident in the Dominion government’s sources of information to pin my faith on the findings of the Dominion Meteorological Bureau. Mr.
Stefansson himself has supplied these sources with information and photographs, so I proceed with all the more confidence, as Mr. Stefansson can hardly quarrel with information he himself has furnished.
I have a wide acquaintance with both Canadian and American educational publications, and I have reexamined those mentioned by Mr. Stefansson and compared th *n with American prototypes. It was a great
relief to discover upon making the resultant comparisons that the facts were not nearly so gloomy as Mr. Stefansson would have me believe.
A Comparison of Textbooks
'T'HE first crime laid to the account of Canadian publications is that they are three times as inaccurate as American publications—on the subject of the “frozen North” at least. I have already said that this is possible because the majority of the United States books take refuge in saying practically nothing to the point. But let us take a first-class American publication that does venture a few pages on the dangerous topic. It was published in time for Christmas 1929 and should therefore give the newest, most up-to-date information; it was written by one of the leading educationists in the States, a much travelled man, and should therefore be of unquestioned accuracy; it bears the imprint of an eminent American publisher in New York. With this let us
compare a Canadian textbook, written by a famous Canadian educationist and recently published in Canada. The purpose of both is to introduce the child for the first time to world geography, as distinct from local or national geography, but neither aims at exhausting the
subject. The important point to me is that both are accepted material for minds about to receive impressions of other lands and some idea of international proportion for the first time, and it needs no argument to emphasize the importance of first impressions which, right or wrong, are proverbially permanent in the majority. Let us examine these two witnesses. We will let the visitor speak first, always remembering that, according to Mr. Stefansson’s most generous allowance, we need not expect more than twenty per cent of errors.
In a volume of over 450 pages, the American geography allots quite four and a half of them to the whole of Canada. Within this small space remarkable things happen. We are told that the two countries have never fought with each other, when, by the shade of Brock, every Canadian knows better; we are told that Atlantic liners on the foggy banks of the Newfoundland waters are in the habit of running into small fishing boats and sinking them “with all on board;” we are told that the Canadian Pacific Railway owns all the hotels along the railroad, but anyone who has travelled any distance in Canada knows, like myself, that this again is not the case; and we are given the astounding information that “England sends a man across the ocean to govern Canada, so he is called the GovernorGeneral.”
So much for Canada as a whole.
In the discussion of northern Canada, the Hudson Bay territory is disposed of in a paragraph with the statement that “all around the Hudson Bay the winters are so cold that men do not live there unless they have to.” The Eskimos receive seven lines of attention and are made to live in the “snow houses” which Mr. Stefansson objects to in the Canadian books. The Arctic Is disposed of thus: “As you go north in Canada the country gets colder and colder till at last it gets so cold that it is too cold even for trees to grow.” Such statements, assigned by Mr. Stefansson to Canadian books, have had all the vitriol of Mr. Stefansson’s wrath poured upon them. The final impression of Canada that one gets from these surprising four and a half pages is that Canadians are turning in horror from the “frozen North” so dear to the heart of Mr. Stefansson, and are huddled clase up against the United States border for warmth and shelter, wishing heartily that they could get across. For what else can the following statement mean: “Most of the people in Canada live as close along the edge of the United States as they can, because it gets very cold in winter farther north than that.”
What can be more pessimistic, derogatory, inaccurate
and unfounded than this? How can Mr. Stefansson blind himself to such a statement when he himself goes out of his way to prove that the heaviest snowfall in North America occurs on this very northern edge of the United States? In the face of all this does Mr. Stefansson expect us to believe his assertion that the American books at the most go only twenty per cent wrong?
Now let us examine the Canadian witness. From this native production Mr. Stefansson tells us we need not expect to hear more than one-third of the truth, and, in that case, we may reasonably expect a riot of errors if this book is to outdo Mr. Stefansson’s twenty per cent of misstatements in the American book.
nPHE Canadian book, which is largely used in every province, has 240 pages of world geography, and thirty of these are given to Canada, and those chiefly to the northern half. The first striking respect in which it differs from the American book is in the matter of illustrations: the text is freely illustrated by very fine reproductions of government and other photographs, and colored illustrations of actual places and people, whereas the only illustrations in the American books are fanciful pen and ink sketches in the “newspaper comic” style and still more fancifully produced maps. What does the Canadian book say about Northern Canada? We lind that Chesterfield Inlet is the centre of the narrative, and the Eskimos receive fifteen pages of description and photographs. These fifteen pages are crammed with information. They tell us that the Eskimo lives in a tent in summer and a snow house in winter, and show us photographs from the Department of the Interior to prove that this is so. They tell us that the men and women have leisure for artistic occupations, the men for carving handsome weapons, the women for designing on skins and making attractive articles for the home; the children have fine toys and a variety of games like any child in the south of Canada; the men are as proud of their skill with the dog whip as any cowboy with his lasso, and both men -and boys spend their leisure moments in developing greater skill in its use; they are all, men and women, athletic enough to enjoy strenuous games of football, to swim in summer and coast in winter, to shoot at marks, to throw the spear like a Scot throwing the hammer, and to dance for nights and days on end “when the hunting goes well.”
All these statements are carefully illustrated by photographs from the Department of the Interior supplied to it by men on the spot.
We learn that the plains are free from snow in the summer, and can see so for ourselves in the photographs, and that the Eskimo is a skilful hunter over these grassy plains in summer, while in winter he is equally expert on the icefields. Our final impression is that the Eskimos are a healthy, sturdy, active race whose life is as enjoyable to them as ours is to us in southern Canada; indeed, we have an attractive picture to carry away with us if the following statement be true: “Eskimo families are fond of one another and they live happily together without quarrelling.”
Can Mr. Stefansson be really serious when he asserts that Canadian books describe the life of the Eskimo in a manner that rouses only “pity and amusement?” We would recommend him to go exploring for this book, and others like it, all bearing the stamp of government approval. Among other cheering information, they give u s descripti o n s and photos of the Yukon as a graingrowing country, of the Mackenzie R i ver and its woo d e d b a nk s innocent of snow, of healthy-looki n g Eskimos with fine boats in the background riding at anchor in the harbor. In fact, so enthusiastic does one of the books become over t h e Mackenzie valley that it gives a description more enticing than that of the St.
Lawrence, and decidedly more attractive than Franklin’s records of his adventures onthe Coppermine.
schoolbooks do not make wild statements on hearsay, but are plentifully backed with statistics and photographs from railway surveyors and government intelligence departments. Even if the Canadian book that
we are using as witness does make the statement— accompanied by a photograph—that Eskimos live in snow houses in winter, and that Eskimos not only eat “usually raw” but sometimes drink oil at-the rate of a teacupful a day to make themselves “feel quite well fed”—statements which Mr. Stefansson indignantly rejects—these are only two possible errors in thirty pages. Does Mr.
Stefansson consider that two errors in thirty pages make a book more than two-thirds wrong? That he is justified in saying ot Canadian books
that their “entire geographic teaching, so far as it deals with the northern two-thirds of Canada is two-thirds
wrong, with the misstatements chiefly derogatory,” adding that “not the worst foreign book approved for use in our schools is more than ten or twenty per cent incorrect, moreover that incorrectness is not all derogatory?”
Mr. Stefansson laughs to scorn the very idea that ‘‘the farther north you go the colder it is, no matter what season of the year.” I have at hand the reports from the various meteorological stations in Canada from the Arctic to the international boundary and from the Atlantic to the Pacific. An examination of some of these reports will thus help us to test the truth of the above statement which Mr. Stefansson finds so ridiculous, and before beginning the examination we should remember certain fundamental geographical facts. For the purpose of isotherlhic comparison, if we make an arbitrary choice of ,any Arctic spot with any spot in southern Canada we reveal ourselves shamefully ignorant of the elementary geographical fact that temperature does not depend on latitude alone, but on the physical conformation of the country as well. For instance, mountain ranges can divide weather conditions as well as waterways; river valleys, and broad, sweeping plains are not comparable, even when in the same latitude; altitude is of decisive importance; and the sea upsets all rules of latitude. Both winter and summer are affected* by these various influences, and both seasons need consideration before we pass judgment on any district, particularly if we are interested in the district “from the strictly economic point of view” that Mr. Stefansson has in mind. Yet Mr. Stefansson airily waives aside winter conditions in the north and pays all his attention to the very much more attractive summer. Does this mean that “strictly from the economic point of view” the long winter of the north could be ignored even although men had to live through it, and that both men and industries could go into a winter sleep until the summer came around for consideration? Does Mr. Stefansson mean to say that he, of all men, does not know that the struggle for life, whether for mere existence or for industrially acquired luxury, goes on in winter as well as in summer.
Let us examine the facts. The following comparisons take January as representative of winter conditions and July as representative of summer. Only places of similar physiography are compared, for to ignore physiography is to court inaccuracy, and one need not be a geographer to realize this. Yet I notice that Mr. Stefansson, in making his comparisons, ignored these physiographical influences as airily as he waived all consideration of winter. Surely he can recognize the inaccuracy of comparing points on the coast, even though it is the Arctic coast, with points in the heart of the Canadian mainland; then why compare conditions on the Arctic coast with conditions in northern Alberta and Saskatchewan, Canada’s two most continental provinces, when the obvious and fair comparison was with conditions on those Pacific and Atlantic coast areas which Mr. Stefansson ignores as conveniently as he ignores winter
and physiography? Would such a comparison have weakened Mr. Stefansson’s argument against the statement that the farther north you go the colder it gets? Let us proceed to a fair comparison.
A Fair Parallel
(CONSIDERING both physiography and latitude, the following places make a good comparison: Fort Good Hope, just south of the Arctic circle, Fort Norman, just south of latitude 65, and Fort Simpson at latitude 61, all being in the Northwest Territory and in the Mackenzie valley. These are compared with
Fort McMurray in the Athabaska valley at latitude 56, Edmonton on the North Saskatchewan River at latitude 53, and Calgary on the Bow River at latitude 51, all three being in Alberta. These six settlements are inland, to the west of the Central Plain, and comparatively close to the eastern slope of the Rockies.
The comparison is clearly revealed by a table of maximum and minimum temperatures for these points.
At first glance, the temperatures do not seem to vary very much. But another glance at the minimum temperature for the month shows a steady tendency to grow
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There Is a Frozen North
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colder toward the north even when the southern places have ten times the altitude of the northern. The remarks are a further enlightenment, for they show that very low temperatures are unusual in the southern areas while in the northern they are of frequent occurrence. In the face of these facts we are forced to recognize that the farther north the district, the colder is its prevailing temperature— at any rate in winter.
Place I.at. Alt. Temp. Temp.
Fort Good Hope . 06 214 ft. 42 —61
Fort Norman ... 65 266 ft. 34 —51
Fort Simpson ... 61 195 ft. 22 —51
Fort MeMurray 56 840 ft. 41 51
Edmonton ...... 53 2,158 ft. 39 —34
Calgary ........ 51 3,428 ft. 47 —27
No. of days No. of days Remarks: above zero below—30
Fort Good Hope .......... 1 17
Fort Norman ............ 1 13
Fort Simpson ............ 0 8
Fort MeMurray .......... 4 10
Edmonton ............... 14 1
Calgary .................. 18 0
Summer Temperatures JULY. 1927
Place Max. Temp. Min. Temp. Remarks '
Fort Good Hope 90 32 2 thunderstorms
Fort Norman . . 90 27 1 thunderstorm
Fort Simpson . . 87 34 3 thunderstorms
Fort MeMurray 94 38 3 thunderstorms
Edmonton .... 88 38 0 thunderstorms
Calgary ...... 85 45 7 thunderstorms
Although the summer maximum temperature varies considerably, the summer minimum rises steadily toward the south, accompanied by increasing numbers of storms. There are many causes of thun: derstorms, and heat is one of them. From J these comparisons, therefore, it is evident I that in summer, as in winter, the prevailing temperature rises as one goes south, provided that the same physiographical conditions exist.
Then why do not Mr. Stefansson’s figures show this fact? He has given us statistics which mean very little to the lay reader, because he omits to show their significance in a conclusion that sums up the situation as it normally exists. Then he proceeds to quote abnormal conditions to illustrate the normal. For
instance, he gave Saskatchewan’s minimum temperature as -70, which occurred forty-four years ago at Prince Albert and has not repeated itself since; so we are fairly safe in concluding that another forty-four years will roll by before Prince Albert receives another such visitation, for the mean daily minimum in Prince Albert during thirty years is -17 degrees in January, the coldest month of the year. Another unfair representation of facts was to compare coast conditions in the Northwest with inland conditions in the north of a province without a coastline, when both justice and science demand a parallel comparison, a comparison of coast with coast or inland with inland. Vancouver or Saint John or any other points on the Pacific or Atlantic seaboard are the obvious points of comparison with the Arctic coast; but Mr. Stefansson chooses Canada’s most continental town, Prince Albert, in Canada’s most continental province, Saskatchewan, to offset conditions on the north coast of Canada. If he must compare Prince Albert with a Northwest settlement, then in all fairness why not select an inland station like Fort Good Hope for the purpose? Prince Albert’s lowest and most abnormal temperature on record is -70, that of Fort Good Hope -78.5 degrees. This again proves that, under the same physiographical conditions, the farther north you go the colder it gets, and effectively throws out Mr. Stefansson’s objection to the statement.
If Mr. Stefansson insists on abnormal temperatures as representative of any district, then he should have quoted -65 degrees at Mercy Bay, latitude, 74.6, and -61 at Dealy Island, latitude 74.56, as temperatures characteristic of the Arctic zone, both temperatures having occurred in January 1853. Further, the record for the Mackenzie delta falls to -57. Yet Mr. Stefansson quotas -52 as the lowest temperature for Canada’s north coast area.
While creating the impression that abnormal conditions are the usual state of affairs in the places he discusses, Mr. Stefansson fails to give us any clear idea
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There Is a Frozen North
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of what the normal conditions actually are. For instance, he omits to draw the following vital conclusion from his comparisons: that while no spectacularly low temperatures occur north of the Arctic coast, yet the temperature remains steadily between -30 and -40 for days on end; this condition, normal to the Arctic, is an event of the greatest rarity anywhere in the continental provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan, even in Prince Albert. Why does not Mr. Stefansson point this out to us? Does he want us to think that the Arctic is a temperate zone, and that -70 is a prevailing state in Saskatchewan? To bring this point nearer home: Mr. Stefansson quotes Ontario’s minimum temperature as -60, a state of things which we in Toronto know to be as frequent as Halley’s comet and likely to occur not once in a lifetime. For seventy years Toronto, at any rate, has known no lower temperature than -26. His figures may be correct, but his conclusions are misleading.
I have no space for extensive comparisons, but before leaving this point let us compare figures relative to Banff, the famous Rocky Mountain resort at latitude 51, and to the less famous mountain settlement of Mayo Landing in the Yukon at latitude 63.
Place Lafc. Alta. Temp. Temp.
Mayo Landing . . 63 1,900 28 —53
Banff .......... 51 4,521 38.7 —37.7
No. of days No. of days
Remarks above zero below —30
Mayo Landing ........... 2 16
Banff ................... 18 4
Place Max. Temp. Min. Temp. Remarks
Mayo Landing 89 35 8 thunderstorms
Banff ....... 88.9 33.5 7 thunderstorms
Here again we can see for ourselves that, even in spite of altitude and Mr. Stefansson, the temperature decreases toward the north in winter, if not in summer, though Banff’s summer temperature is affected by its altitude. Mr. Stefansson states that the schoolbooks are ignorant of these high summer temperatures in the Arctic, but is this so? I turn to one of the most elementary geographies in use in the provincial schools and read a letter from a little Eskimo boy to his schoolfellows in Southern Canada, in which he says: “Our summer is short and hot, our winter is long and cold.”
In the face of this very small quota of the evidence to hand, I fail to see any objection to the statement “the farther north you go the colder it is, no matter what season of the year.” If the fact is still not clear, a detailed study of the most up-to-date winter and summer meteorological charts of Canada in the Canada Year Book for 1929 ought to break down the last defense of the sceptics.
What About Those Trees?
\zfR. STEFANSSON attacks the Canadian schoolbooks for representing the North as a treeless waste. He gives laborious proof that the North is not a treeless waste, and I heartily agree with him—but so do the very books he is finding fault with. Evidently his examination of the criminals was not very close, as he failed to notice that one of the guilty volumes describes the Mackenzie basin thus: “The banks of the river are wooded right to the shore of the Arctic Ocean;” states that the territory north of Ontario and Manitoba “is a forest strip covered with smaller growth suitable for pulpwood and extending from Labrador to the Yukon and the Arctic coast,” and goes so far as to name “spruce, tamarack, poplar and birch” as the species of trees to be found in this “northern
forest.” Is this representing the North as a treeless waste? He is violently opposed to calling the Arctic trees small when their trunks grow to one and onehalf feet in diameter, but we must admit that one and one-half is comparatively small and stunted when British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec, and New Brunswick can produce trees four to five feet in diameter. Neither the Canadian Year Book for 1929 nor Franklin’s account of his travels along the Coppermine Valley are more complimentary than the schoolbooks to the northern forests, and if Mr. Stefansson has a quarrel here, he should bring these into it, too.
Then, Mr. Stefansson extracts a statement out of one book and hurls it in accusation at all the rest of its tribe. He accuses the Canadian schoolbooks of teaching that “in that land—i. e. the Northwest Territories—there is little but ice and snow.” He should find it hard to maintain his stand in the face of the following evidence. One of the seven schoolbooks that he glanced through, states that “wheat and cattle can be raised as far north as the Great Slave Lake. Vegetables such as potatoes, peas, turnips, beets, cabbages and onions, and fruits such as strawberries, currants and gooseberries, can be grown just as well in the neighborhood of the Great Slave Lake as one thousand miles farther south. Recently a promising oil field at Fort Norman has been discovered.” The book accompanies its remarks with photographs; one shows the oil well at Fort Norman in a setting of scattered trees and on ground innocent of snow; another photograph, reproduced through the courtesy of the Ottawa Geological Survey, shows a mass of beautiful flowers with a moth against them and illustrates the type of vegetation to be found on the Arctic coast—the original photograph having been taken by Mr. Stefansson himself.
One of the books overlooked by Mr. Stefansson presents the Northern Plain in the following manner: “Perhaps the million and a half of square miles given over to the fur trader may some day be used for other purposes. The Northern Plain is anything but barren. The great warmth and continued light of the summer sun, which shines for twenty hours a day, clothes favored parts of these lands almost magically with a mantle of grass and flowers.” This book also reproduces attractive pictures of the North, one of which represents three winning Eskimo children knee-deep in flowering grasses, with no trace of snow in sight. Both these schoolbooks are university productions of professorial authorship. How, then, can Mr. Stefansson say that schoolbook information is quite different from university teaching, when the university professor supplies both? And does he suppose that these books, coming hot from the university, would not only give information diametrically opposed to university teaching, but would also be sufficiently imbecile to include illustrations flatly opposed to the text they are ostensibly illustrating?
But the Canadian schoolbooks are not yet faulty enough for Mr. Stefansson, and he goes on to question their information about the animal life of the North. The musk ox “lives mainly on grasses, sedges and browse,” says Mr. Stefansson, and he ridicules the textbooks for making it eat moss. But the textbook describes the musk ox as a “herbivorous or herbeating” animal. To find a discrepancy here is surely to be reduced to mere quibbling over words. Then Mr. Stefansson’s assertion that the northern waters abound in fish is more than borne out by the schoolbooks. These books are perpetually ramming down our throats the fact that “few known w’aters are richer in fish,
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whales and seals than those of the Arctic.”
Mr. Stefansson goes on to object that the schoolbooks represent animal life in the north as sparse and decreasing; but far from doing this, one book carries its dreams of an abundantly stocked north to a visionary extent, because it says, “efforts are now being made to make the northern plains and Arctic Islands great musk ox and reindeer ranches which will supply meat, milk and clothing.”
Portrait of the Eskimos
VIT’HEN, however, we turn to the ’ * people of the north, the Eskimos, Mr. Stefansson breaks into titanic laughter at the expense of Canadian schoolbooks; in fact, he is so overcome by his own amusement that he forgets to examine the case; otherwise he would have realized that there was really nothing to laugh at. The Canadian schoolbook version of the Eskimos has already been given at the beginning of this article, when it was compared with the American version. Instead of being the disheartening, fictitious sketch that rouses Mr. Stefansson to laughter, it is a straightforward account of daily life among the Eskimos, illustrated freely by photographs. Yet Mr. Stefansson disqualifies Canadian schoolbooks on the following grounds:
1. They invent a “fictitious country with a fictitious name of Eskimo-land.” In my wide acquaintance with both teachers and textbooks I cannot recall such an occurrence. Perhaps Mr. Stefansson has been taking kindergarten talk literally and applying it to the adolescent.
2. They represent the Eskimos as a people with no leisure and engaged in an unceasing struggle with the elements. I have already shown this to be otherwise, and that our Canadian books present the Eskimos to us as an artistic, athletic people, who are as fond of social life and domestic leisure as we in the south of Canada.
3. They make Eskimos live in snow houses. This point also has been discussed in another connection at the beginning of this article, and I fail to see how this can be false when we have an ample supply of photographs to show, not only the houses themselves but the manner in which they are built.
4. They represent the Eskimoas “stunted in mind and body.” But do they? In an accused book is a reproduction of one of Mr. Stefansson’s own photographs. It shows two Eskimo women in their Sunday skin clothes of so elaborate a design that no “stunted mind” could have created at least one of the garments. One woman is tall, the other short, and we see for ourselves that Eskimos, like other Canadians, can vary in size. The many photographs of Eskimos in the schoolbooks show men who are never tall, sometimes of medium height, but generally tending to be short. In southern Canada every man in the street would call these men “small.” So again it is mere quibbling with words to condemn books for using the word “small” instead of the phrase “of average stature.”
5. They ignore the commercial life of the Eskimo. Again, is this so? No book misses an opportunity to tell us that the fur and fish industry of the Arctic is run by Eskimos, and photographs from the Department of the Interior at Ottawa show, for instance, an Eskimo family with its boats of yacht-like dimensions and outline in the background, which look suspiciously like some of the “power schooners” supplied by Edmonton to the Eskimos, and described by Mr. Stefansson.
The “Barren Lands’*
T ACK of space forces me to omit much, but I must refer to the scorn that Mr. Stefansson flings against Canadian schoolbooks for calling the Barren Lands “Barren Lands.” A moment’s reflection will remind him the books did not choose
this name any more than he chose his own, both being titles handed down from days gone by. And on this point Mr. Stefansson can give at least one Canadian schoolbook the credit for being as astute as himself, and also as critical, as it describes the area thus: “It was formerly called the ‘Barren Lands’ but recently has been more correctly named the ‘Northern Plain’—the new title being written in italics for emphasis.
Mr. Stefansson sets up a wail, at the last, that Canadian schoolbooks “dampen the current enthusiasm about the Far North of Canada,” which is due to the beginning of actual mining in the middle north, where Flin Flon and Sherritt Gordon are already words to conjure with. “But let him take heart and read the following extract from a schoolbook approved by the governments of two or three provinces: “Efforts are now being made to make the northern plains and Arctic islands great musk ox and reindeer ranches, which will supply meat, milk and clothing. Perhaps some day such ranches may make it possible for miners to live in these regions more easily and to develop the great mineral resources which are undoubtedly to be found in Canada’s vast northland.” Even one of the books that depressed him as he glimpsed through it has the following encouraging observation to make: “In the prairie provinces, despite their great output of grain, only a beginning has been made, and away to the north along the Athabaska and Peace rivers is some of the best agricultural land in the world with a suitable climate.” Does this not indicate that Canada’s agricultural resources, already very great, have scarcely been touched and that in the North lies her hope? Again we read in a schoolbook: “In the northern part of the Great Plain there is every evidence of the presence of extensive oil and gas fields, a very important flow of oil having been obtained already at Fort Norman on the Mackenzie River, 750 miles northwest of Edmonton;” and we also note that it is “underlaid in many places by seams of coal.” The forest timber is described as valuable to mines and potentially valuable as pulpwood. It goes on to picture the north as a land of comparative plenty even today, when its resources are practically untapped, for it asserts “that the thousands of lakes and rivers of northern Canada have scarcely been touched, and it is well known that all these northern waters teem with the choicest food fishes.” Does Mr. Stefansson believe himself when he calls this picture of an industrial and agricultural north nothing more than a “geographical wet blanket?”
Let me emphasize that Canadian teachers and publishing houses are as anxious in reality as Mr. Stefansson professes to be, to rouse that enthusiasm which is essential to pave the way “for the great spread of settlements northward that must continue till inhabited Canada is as broad as it is long, a nation drawing power from all its territories, even the farthest islands in the northern sea.” But Mr. Stefansson’s destructive and unfounded complaining is the right way to set about shaking the confidence of Canadians in themselves. We set a high value on his experience and keen insight, and we therefore regret all the more deeply that instead of using his gifts to help Canada in her need, he is hurling them at her as weapons of destruction.
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