ONE of the most remarkable features of recent Western Canadian history has been the large and increasing immigration from the United States. For many years past a stream of home-seekers has been flowing northward from the farming States of Kansas and the Dakotas, and the total figures relating to American immigration are given below in four-year periods
1896-7 ………… 2,412. 1900-1 ………… 17,987. 1904-5 ………… 43,652. 1908-9 ………… 59,832.
During the year 1909-10, however, the ” trek north ward of the United States agriculturists appears to have become a veritable stampede, and the prodigious figure of 103,798 was registered for that year. This is almost equal to the combined immigration from the United Kingdom and the Continent (59,790 and 45,206 respectively), and later figures for the summer of 1910 indicate that the movement is being continued without any sign of abatement.
The material thus introduced is of the best possible quality, composed as it is of the most experienced tillers of the soil coming from a region where agricultural and climatic conditions are practically similar to those in the North-West provinces of Canada. Besides being men of splendid character, physically strong and of an integrity that comes from close connection with the surroundings of farm life, the incoming American farmers have brought with them a substantial amount of capital. A settlers’ train arriving from the United States is stated recently to have brought to Canada two hundred farmers with an aggregate capital of 2,000,000 dollars, and it has been calculated that the American immigrant possesses an average capital of at least 1,000 dollars, brought either in cash, stock, or household effects.
Not only do these welcome ” invaders ” bring capital, but what is worth even more to the future of the North-West, they carry with them the ripe experience of years on the prairies of the Middle West of the United States. This experience has taught them methods of farming that are readily adaptable to the life they are destined to live in the Canadian North-West. Settlers from Great Britain and from the Continent require ordinarily some time in which to adapt themselves to the changed conditions and environment. The immigrant from the prairies of the Western States, however, finds conditions varying but slightly from those left behind him in the south. He finds that the manner of working the soil is similar, the methods of cultivation the same, and the crops usually grown the same. He finds a constitution certainly not less liberal than that to which he has been accustomed, and experiences that security which results from an impartial administration of the law.
The opening up of the farm lands of Western Canada seems to have come to pass at a more or less critical period in the history of the United States. With the rapid growth of the population of the United States and the gradual industrialisation of the people, it was inevitable that at some time or another the energies of the American farmer would become increasingly taxed to raise sufficient food-stuffs at low prices to provide for the millions dependent on the land that had in earlier years been prolific in its yield of wheat, oats and barley, but had become denuded of the elements that supplied the generating properties. The consequence was that year by year the average production decreased, and fields were everywhere being thrown into Indian corn and coarser grains.
The burdens laid upon the farmer by the general conditions in the U.S.A., and the lessened fertility of his farm have all tended to make him restless, and particularly amenable to the great attractions of the Canadian North-West.
On examining the country he found it offered more and presented less disadvantages than he expected. Coming from the American Middle West, he ” sized up ” quickly the prairies of Saskatchewan or Alberta, and he became anxious to repeat his earlier experiences in the old home when virgin fields enabled him to raise bumper crops of wheat. Canada offered ” free land for the asking,” or, if he preferred it, he could buy land near to railways at comparatively low prices. He could use his machinery to great advantage, and the man with the steam plough came forward and demonstrated what work could be done. The steam plough is to-day one of the great factors satisfactorily applied to the Canadian prairies by the farmer. They are being operated in the three prairie provinces with splendid results to the yield of grain.
This emigration to Canada has naturally aroused a heartburning in the United States, and efforts are said to have been made with a view if possible to stem the tide flowing northward. Allegations that railway companies, land companies, and other interested parties have subsidised the Press to publish systematic mis-representations of Western Canada and the conditions ruling there are also said to have been made. More practical are the efforts of the United States government, who have spent in the last few years many millions of dollars in irrigating lands once considered to be barren, and in adapting other cultivable lands for settlement.
Among the immigrants now coming into Canada from the United States are larger numbers of ” Returned Canadians,” persons who left their homeland in the ” lean ” years now happily past, and are responding to the home call since Canada has come into her own.” Special directions have been given to Canadian government agents in the United States to find out former Canadians who may be living there, devoted to agricultural pursuits, and to advise them of the opportunities that the Canadian West affords as a field for farming, and great success has followed this line of work. Large numbers of French Canadians are to be found in the Eastern, Middle and Western states, and many of these have already decided to return to the Dominion. Some have gone back to the farms of Quebec, while others have taken up homesteads and purchased lands in the Canadian North-West. What they have accomplished there is carefully watched and noted, and the reports sent back to their friends. This has stimulated the return movement to Canada.
An investigation into the origin of the ” Americans ” who are crossing the border in such great numbers is said to reveal the fact that no less than 40 per cent. of them are ” Returned Canadians,” and that only 20 per cent. of them are natural-born citizens of the United States, the remainder consisting of Germans or Scandinavians who had settled in the United States. This, however, must be put forward with some reserve.
A considerable factor consequent upon the large and growing immigration of farmers into Canada from the United States is the concurrent removal of the merchant and the tradesman. Then the manufacturer, anxious to retain the trade of the people he has known for years, and at the same time to get a share of the prosperity which Canada promises, follows as opportunity offers. These settlers are helping to build up the towns and cities of Western Canada, becoming part of the life which causes the hamlet to grow into the town, and later on the town into a city. Great industries are growing up in Canada which are financed by American money, and managed by men who brought with them from Ohio, Nebraska and Indiana the capital and experience necessary.
Arrived in Canada, the American farmer soon settles down. He knows his work, he has the business instinct to the tips of his fingers, and he is to the last degree adaptable. His sense of nationality is not strong, and he comes to the country because he thinks it offers him a better prospect ; and if he does not sing ” Rule Britannia ” with the fervour of a newly-arrived British immigrant, he is none the less valuable to the land of his adoption. Much interesting speculation as to the political effect of this movement might be indulged in, but it will be wiser to record the facts at a future date.