Canada: Our Destiny

IN these days Canadians complacently observe that there is a very thorough awakening in all civilised countries to the great part which the Dominion is destined to play in the world’s history. Lord Strathcona’s prediction that, by the end of the present century the Dominion of Canada shall have a population of eighty millions of people, has sometimes been questioned. In Great Britain the density of population is 344 to the square mile ; in Canada, but a little more than one to the square mile. Were the density equal to that of this country, the population of Canada would be over 1,200,000,000. That there is any expectation of this at any early date would not be claimed by even the most optimistic in the City of Winnipeg, but there still remains the assurance of an immense increase at no distant period. In 1840 the white population of the United States was 14,000,000, by the last census it had risen to 76,356,000. In 1840, and for a generation subsequent, the facilities for emigration as they are today did not exist. The emigrant of that period had to face, at the outset, a long and perilous journey, full of hardships and discomforts, to an almost unknown land. The modern steerage passenger is often better provided for than when in his home, and has provision made for him en voyage at least equal to that formerly given to the saloon passengers. In addition, the number and capacity of passenger vessels has enormously increased. The modern Press also exercises a great influence in peopling new countries by circulating information among all classes in the older and more congested centres of population. To the land hungry of two continents, the attractions of Canada, with her vast areas of fertile but unoccupied lands, and her healthy climate, must prove irresistible, and these attractions will remain for some time to come as great as those of the United States in 1840. There is, therefore, every reasonable ground for anticipating that the population of Canada will grow even more rapidly than was the case in the history of her neighbour to the south, whose expansion has constituted a great feature in world affairs. There can be no object in labouring the point. The immense resources of Canada are admitted on all sides ; and, given an adequate population, her position must eventually become that of a great world power.

What is the political destiny of Canada is a question often asked outside the Dominion. Canadians themselves are far too busy acquiring wealth by the development of the natural resources of their land to be much concerned about the matter. Everyone has seen it stated that Canada will become either :

1. A part of the United States.

2. Independent.

3. Remain as at present.

On these questions it is especially desirable to take short views. In respect of the first suggestion it is to be observed that there is no serious movement in that direction in the United States. In the great Republic the interests of party politics dominate most situations, and it may well be surmised that any proposal for union with Canada—involving, as it would, a decisive effect upon the balance of political parties in the United States, and presenting prospects as to which the only certainty that could be felt, would be that their influence would be extremely problematical—is not likely to come within the range of practical politics in the Republic. Other reasons might be assigned in support of the view set forth above, but this is unnecessary, the question of annexation, for the present at any rate—and who can speak otherwise—needs only to be mentioned to be dismissed.

In Canada there has been no very serious movement in favour of annexation since Confederation. It is true that the case in its favour has been brilliantly stated by the late Mr. Goldwin Smith, who, however, objected to the use of the word ” annexation,” describing it as an improper term, and urging that the union of Canada with the American Republic might be on equal and honourable terms, like that of Scotland with England. By entering this union he contended Canada need not forfeit her peculiar character or her historical associations, and might render great services to England within the councils of the Union. The primary forces making for such union would, Mr. Goldwin Smith confidently predicted, in the end prevail. Near the end of his long and honourable career Mr. Smith confessed, so it is believed, that the union which he deemed as certain of consummation, looked further off than ever. This latter view is now shared by a great majority of the Canadian people.

It is not permissible in this work to go very deeply into any controversial topic. At the same time, the subject is one of surpassing interest, and it may serve a useful purpose to cite a number of authoritative expressions of opinion, from leaders of all sections of the Canadian people, which will give, as far as possible, a clear indication of the attitude of the people as reflected in the utterances quoted :

The Hon. George Brown, the Canadian Liberal Leader, in a speech delivered at Belleville in 1858, said : ” Who can look at the map of this continent and mark the vast portion of it acknowledging British sovereignty, without feeling that union and not separation ought to be the foremost principle with British American states-men. Who that examines the condition of the several provinces which constitute British North America, can fail to feel that with the people of Canada must mainly rest the noble task at no distant date, of consolidating these provinces, and of redeeming to civilisation and peopling with new life the vast territories to our north. Who cannot see that Providence has entrusted to us the building up of a great northern people, fit to cope with our neighbours of the United States, and to advance step by step with them in the march of civilisation ? ”

The Hon. Alexander Mackenzie, the first Liberal Premier of Canada from 1873 to 1878, in a speech delivered at Ottawa in 1875, said :

” At the same time he wished his hearers always to remember that Canada is our home ; that while we think with gratitude of the land of our birth, while our hearts are filled with the warmest patriotism when its history and its heroes are called to mind, we should not forget that we have great duties and responsibilities, not of a sectional, but of a national character, to discharge, and that we ought to devote ourselves faithfully and honestly to the task of creating and upholding a Canadian spirit, Canadian sentiment and Canadian enthusiasm ; in a word, a spirit of nationality always British, but still Canadian. The patriotism of the British people and Government will ever be with us, and we in turn hope always to reside under the shadow of the grand old flag of England, at once the symbol of power and of civilisation.”

Sir John A. Macdonald, Premier from 1867 to 1873, and from 1878 to 1891, in his last election address, said :

For a century and a half this country has grown and flourished under the protecting aegis of the British Crown. The gallant race who first bore to our shores the blessings of civilisation, passed, by an easy transition, from French to English rule, and now form one of the most law-abiding portions of the community. These pioneers were speedily recruited by the advent of a loyal band of British subjects, who gave up everything that men most prize, and were content to begin life anew in the wilderness rather than forego allegiance to their Sovereign. To the descendants of these men, and of the multitude of Englishmen, Irishmen and Scotchmen who emigrated to Canada that they might build up new homes without ceasing to be British subjects—to you Canadians I appeal, and I ask you what have you to gain by surrendering that which your fathers held most dear ? Under the broad folds of the Union Jack, we enjoy the most ample liberty to govern ourselves as we please, and at the same time we participate in the advantages which flow from association with the mightiest Empire the world has ever seen. Not only are we free to manage our domestic concerns, but, practically, we possess the privilege of making our own treaties with foreign countries, and, in our relations with the outside world, we enjoy the prestige inspired by a consciousness of the fact that behind us towers the majesty of England. . . . As for myself, my course is clear. A British subject I was born—a British subject I will die.”

Sir John Thompson, Prime Minister from 1892 to 1894, speaking at Toronto, said :

” As one of the public men of this country, I assert that it is our duty to remove all possible causes of friction between the Mother Land and Canada, in order that we may, in these seven provinces and in the fertile prairies of the Dominion, truly establish British polity and British institutions upon this continent. It is the interest of every true Canadian, if the time shall come, that we shall make all the sacrifices we can make to see that the flag which floats over us shall float over our children as well as ourselves. And it is the first duty, I say, of a public man to help to sustain the greatness of the Empire as well as of the Dominion, knowing that the greatest achievements which the people of this Dominion can accomplish are to be gained under British rule, and in connection with the Empire of which we are proud to-day to form a part.”

Sir Wilfrid Laurier, who has been Premier, without a break, from 1896 until now, in a speech delivered in 1900, said :

” Three years ago, when visiting England at the Queen’s Jubilee, I had the privilege of visiting one of those marvels of Gothic architecture which the hand of genius, guided by an unerring faith, had made a harmonious whole, in which granite, marble, oak and other materials were blended. This cathedral is the image of the nation that I hope to see Canada become. As long as I live, as long as I have the power to labour in the service of my country, I shall repel the idea of changing the nature of its different elements. I want the marble to remain the marble ; I want the granite to remain the granite ; I want the oak to remain the oak ; I want the sturdy Scotchman to remain the Scotchman ; I want the brainy Englishman to remain the Englishman ; I want the warm-hearted Irishman to remain the Irish-man ; I want to take all these elements and build a nation that will be foremost amongst the great powers of the world.”

Sir Charles Tupper, who has held many portfolios in the Dominion Cabinet, was Prime Minister in 1896, and represented Canada in London for many years as High Commissioner, in an article on ” The National Evolution of Canada,” stated :

” The Confederation of Canada has been followed by the Commonwealth of Australia, and I am rejoiced to see that the statesmen of the provinces of South Africa have succeeded in agreeing upon an admirable constitution for a united Government. With the great Dominions of Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa rapidly rising into important nations, and united to the Mother Country notably by devotion to a common Crown and British institutions, but bound to them, as I trust they will be at no distant day, by the potent tie of mutual preferential trade with each other, they will form an Empire which will excite the admiration of the world.”

Mr. R. L. Borden, leader of the Opposition in the Dominion Parliament, recently stated that ” reciprocity within the Empire, rather than with foreign countries, was to-day the aspiration of the Canadian people, and he was convinced that its early accomplishment was essential to the future of the Empire.” He added :

Within a few years the future destiny of the Empire will be determined. The problems that confront it are not easy of solution. Autonomy must be preserved, and the natural resources of each dependency must be developed, but there must also be effective co-operation in trade and in defence. . . . Everyone realises that the people of the British Islands have the right and duty of determining their own fiscal policy ; to solve the larger problem of Imperial concern all the nations of the Empire must lend their united efforts. Reciprocity within the Empire rather than with foreign countries is to-day the aspiration of the Canadian people. It is my profound conviction that its early accomplishment is not only desirable, but is even essential to the future solidity and welfare of the Empire.”

Mr. Henri Bourassa, the well known French Canadian politician, said :

” It has become fashionable in Canada to boast that we are a nation, and to resent the name of colonists. We should rather be called a self-governing colony, and as a self-governing colony enjoy all the rights and advantages, than claim the title of a nation and be deprived of one of the most essential perogatives of a nation. The unimpaired right of contracting our own treaties is the real essence of freedom. Anything short of it is a form of slavery or vassalage. Light and beneficent the bondage may be. Freely it may be accepted, and for a time only it may be safer than liberty. But, as it is, good or bad, as long as it stands, it is something—call it the way you like—which proceeds from a principle directly antagonistic to the principle of liberty. Let us then, be sensible, let us frankly acknowledge that we are not yet prepared to be a nation, that, not being desirous of risking all the dangers of liberty, we renounce some of its rights. But whether we admit that we are still a colony, or whether we pride ourselves in the innocent delusion that we are a nation, I presume that we all agree upon one point that we should be self governing in every respect, except in that which involves as its direct consequence the severance of British connection. That we cannot enjoy the sovereign right to make treaties for peace or war, for the cession or acquisition of territory, I readily admit. What I claim is, that as long as we do not possess the right to make our commercial treaties we are not even a self-governing colony in the true sense of the word.”