Canada – The Coming Of The Foreigner

So far scarcely a cloud appears on the horizon of Canada’s national destiny. Like a ship Iaunched roughly from her stays to tempests in shallow water, she seems to have left tempests and shallow water be-hind and to have sailed proudly out to the great deeps. In ’37 she settled whether she would be ruled by special interests, by a plutocracy, by an oligarchy. In ’67 she settled forever what in the United States would be called “states’ rights.” That is she gathered the scattered members of her fold into one confederation and bound them together not only with the constitution of the British North America Act, but with bands of iron and steel in railways that linked Nova Scotia with British Columbia. By ’77 she had met the menace of the American high tariff, which barred her from markets, and entered on a fiscal system of her own. By ’87 her system of transportation east and west was in working order and she had begun the subsidizing of steamships and the search for world markets which have since resulted in a total foreign trade equal to one fourth that of the United States. By ’97 she was almost ready for the preferential tariff reduction of from twenty-five to thirty-three per cent. on British goods which the Laurier government later introduced, and she had established her right to negotiate commercial treaties with foreign powers independent of the Mother Country. By 1907 she was in the very maelstrom of the maddest real estate boom and immigration flood tide that a sane country could weather.

In a word, Canada’s greatest dangers and difficulties seem to have been passed. The sea seems calm and the sky fair. In reality, she is close to the greatest dangers that can threaten a nation dangers within, not without; dangers, not physical, but psychological, which are harder to overcome ; dangers of dilution and contamination of national blood, national grit, national government, national ideals.

These are strong statements! Let us see if facts substantiate them !

Canada’s natural increase of population is only one-fourth her incoming tide of colonists. In a word, put her natural increase at eighty to one hundred thousand a year, and it is nearer eighty than one hundred thousand. Her immigration exceeds four hundred thousand. If that immigration were all British and all American there would be no problem; for though there are differences in government, both people have the same national ideal utter freedom of opportunity for each man to work out the best in him. It is an even wager that the average Canadian coming to the United States is unaware of any difference in his freedom, and the average American coming to Canada is unaware of any difference in his freedom. Both people have fought and bled for freedom and treasure it as the most sacred thing in life.

But this is not so of thirty-three per cent. of Canada’s immigrants who do not speak English, much less understand the institutions of freedom to which they have come. If they had been worthy of freedom, or capable of making right use of it, they would have fought for it in the land from which they came, or died fighting for it as Scotchmen and Irishmen and Englishmen and Americans have fought and bled for freedom wherever they have lived. A people unused to freedom suddenly plunged in freedom need not surprise us if they run amuck.

“This is mos’ won’erful country,” writes Tony to his brother in Italy. “They let us vote and they pay us two dollars to do it.”

“Yah, yah,” answered a foreign mother in North Winnipeg to a school teacher, trying to recall why her young hopeful had played truant. “Dat vas election my boy, he not go because Jacob my man he vote seven time and make seven dollar.” (The whole family had been on a glorious seven-dollar drunk.)

“Does this man understand for what he is voting?” demanded the election clerk of a Galician interpreter who had brought in a naturalized foreigner to vote.

“Oh, yaas ; I eexplain heem.”

“Can he write?”

An indeterminate nod of the head; so the voter marks his ballot, and his vote counts for as much as that of the premier or president of a railroad.

For years Canadians have pointed the finger of scorn at the notorious misgovernment of American cities, at the manner in which foreigners were herded to the polls by party bosses to vote as they were paid. The cases of a Louisiana judge impeached for issuing bogus certificates of citizenship to four hundred aliens and of New York courts that have naturalized ignorant foreigners in batches of twenty-five thou-sand in a few months have all pointed a moral or adorned a tale in Canada.

Yet what is happening in Canada since the coming of hordes of ignorant immigrants? I quote what I have stated elsewhere, an episode typical of similar episodes, wherever the foreign vote herds in colonies. An election was coming on in one of the western provinces, where reside twenty thousand foreigners almost en bloc. The contest was going to be very close. Offices were opened in a certain block. Legally it requires three years to transform a foreigner into a voting Canadian subject. He must have re-sided in Canada three years before he can take out his papers. The process is simple to a fault. The newcomer goes before a county judge with proof of residence and two Canadian witnesses. He must not be a criminal, and he must be of age. That is all that is required to change a Pole or a Sicilian or a Slav into a free and independent Canadian fully competent to apprehend that voting implies duties and fitness as. well as rights. The contest was going to be very close. A few of the party leaders could not bear to have those newcomers wait a long three years for naturalization. They got together and they forged in the same hand, the same manipulation, the signatures of three hundred foreigners, who did not know in the least what they were doing, to applications for naturalization papers foreigners who had not been three months in Canada. If forgery did not matter, why should perjury? The perpetrators of this fraud happened to be provincial and of a stripe different politically from the federal government then in power at Ottawa. The other party had not been asleep while this little game was going on. The party heeler neither slumbers nor sleeps. The papers with those three hundred forged signatures names in the writing of foreigners, who could neither read, write, nor speak a word of English were sent down to the Department of Justice in Ottawa ; and everybody waited for the explosion. The explosion did not come. Those perjuries and forgeries slumber yet, secure in the Department of Justice. For when the provincial politicians heard what had been done to trap them, they sent down a little message to the heelers of the party in power: If you go after us for this, we’ll go after you for that; and perhaps the pot had better not call the kettle black. The chiefs of each party were powerless to act because the heelers of both parties had been alike guilty.

It may be said that the fault here was not in the poor ignorant foreigner but in the corrupt Canadian politicians. That is true of Canada, as it is of similar practices in the United States ; but the presence of the ignorant, irresponsible foreigner in hordes made the corruption possible, where it is neither possible nor safe with men of Saxon blood, with German, Scandinavian or Danish immigrants, for instance.

It is rutile to talk of the poor and ignorant foreigner as a Goth or a Vandal to talk of excluding the ignorant and the lowly. The floating “he-camps” as these floating immigrants are called in labor circles are today doing much of the manual work of the world. Canadian railways could not be built with-out them. Canadian industrial and farm life could not go on without them. They are needed from Halifax to Vancouver; and their labor is one of the wealth producers for the nation.

And do not think for a moment that the wealth they produce is for capital for the lords of finance and not for themselves. When Montenegrins, who earn thirty cents a day in their own land, earn eleven dollars a day on dynamite work constructing Canadian railroads, it is not surprising that they retire rich, and that the railroad for which they worked would have gone bankrupt if the Dominion had not come to its aid with a loan of millions. Likewise of Poles and Galicians in the coal mines. When Charles Gordon Ralph Connor was sent to investigate the strike in these mines he found foreigners earning seventeen dollars a day on piecework who had never earned fifty cents a day in their own land. I have in mind one Galician settler who has accumulated a fortune of $150,000 in perfectly legitimate ways in ten years. Even the Doukhobors the eccentric Russian religious sect hooted for their oddities of manner and frenzies of religion are accumulating wealth in the Elbow of the Saskatchewan, where they are settled.

From the national point of view Canada needs these foreign settlers. She needs their labor. Every man to her is worth fifteen hundred dollars in productive work. The higher wages he earns on piecework the more Canada is pleased; for the more work he has done. But at the present rate of peopling Canada these foreign born will in twenty years outnumber the native born. What will become of Canada’s national ideals then? In one foreign section of the Northwest I once traveled a hundred miles through new settlements without hearing one word of English spoken ; and these Doukhobors and Galicians and Roumanians and Slays were making good. They were prospering exceedingly. Men who had come with less than one hundred dollars each and lived for the first years in crowded tenements of Winnipeg or under thatch-roof huts on the prairie now had good frame houses, stables, stock, modern implements. The story is told of one poor Russian who, when informed of the fact that the land would be his very own, fell to the earth and kissed the soil and wept. Such settlers make good on soil, whatever ill they work in a polling booth. Except for his religious vagaries, the Doukhobor Russian is law abiding. The same can not be said of the other Slav immigrants. Crime in the Northwest, according to the report of the Mounted Police, has increased appallingly. The crimes are against life rather than against property the crimes of a people formerly kept in order by the constant presence of a soldier’s bayonet run amuck in Canada with too much freedom. And the votes of these people will in twenty years out vote the Canadian. These poverty stricken Jews and Polacks and Galicians will be the wealth and power of Canada to-morrow. If you doubt what will hap-pen, stroll down Fifth Avenue, New York, and note the nationality of the names. A Chicago professor carefully noted the nationality of all the names submitted in Chicago’s elections for a term of years. Three-quarters of the names were of nationalities only one generation away from the Ghetto.

Man to man on the prairie farm, in the lumber woods, your Canadian can out-do the Russian or Galician or Hebrew. The Canadian uses more brains and his aggregate returns are bigger ; but boned down to a basis of who can save the most and become rich fastest, your foreigner has the native-born Canadian beaten at the start. Where the Canadian earns ten dollars and spends eighty per cent. of it, your foreigner earns five dollars, and saves almost all of it. How does he do this? He spends next to nothing. Let me be perfectly specific on how he does it: I have known Russian, Hebrew, Italian families in the Northwest who sewed their children into their clothes for the winter and never permitted a change till spring. Your Canadian would buy half a dozen suits for his children in the interval. Your foreigner buys of furniture and furnishings and comforts practically nothing for the first few years. He sleeps on the floor, with straw for a bed, and he occupies houses twenty-four to a room which is the actual report in foreign quarters in the north end of Winnipeg. Your Canadian requires a house of six rooms for a family of six. When your foreigner has accumulated a little capital he buys land or a city tenement. Your Canadian educates his children, clothes them a little better, moves into a better house. When the foreigner buys a block, he moves his whole family into one room in the basement and does the janitor and scrubbing and heating work himself or forces his women to do it for him. When the Canadian buys a block, he hires a janitor, an engineer, a scrub woman, and if he moves into the block, he takes one of the best apartments. It does not take any guessing to know which of these two will buy a second block first especially if the foreigner lives on peanuts and beer, and the Canadian on beefsteak and fresh fruit. Nor does it take any guessing to know which type stands for the higher citizenship which will make toward the better nation.

The question is will Canada remain Canada when these new races come up to power? And Canada need not hoot that question ; or gather her skirts self-righteously and exclusively about her and pass by on the other side. The United States did that, and today certain sections of the foreign vote are powerful enough to dictate to the President.

Take a little closer look at facts !

Foreigners have never been rushed into Canada as cheap labor to displace the native born, so they have not, as in great American industrial centers, lowered the standard of living for Canadians. They have come attracted by two magnets that give them great power: (1) wages so high they can save; (2) land absolutely free but for the ten-dollar preemption fee.

In 1881 there were six hundred and sixty seven Jews in Canada.

In 1901 there were sixteen thousand. Today it is estimated there are twenty thousand each in Montreal, Toronto, Winnipeg. These Jews have not gone out the land. They have crowded into the industrial centers reproducing the housing evils from which they fled the European Ghetto. There are sections of Winnipeg and Montreal and Toronto where the very streets reek of Bowery smells. When they go to the woods or the land, these people have not the stamina to stand up to hard work. Yet in the cities, by hook or crook, by push-cart and trade, they acquire wealth. On the charity organization of the cities they impose terrible burdens during Canada’s long cold winter.

In one section of the western prairie are 150,000 Galicians. Of Austrians and Germans the Germans chiefly from Austria and Russia there are 300,000 in Canada, or a population equal to the city of Montreal. Of Italians at last report there were fully 60,000 in Canada. In one era of seven years there took up permanent abode in Canada 121,000 Austrians, 50,000 Jews, 60,000 Italians, 60,000 Poles and Russians, 40,000 Scandinavians. When you consider that by actual count in the United States in 1900, 1,000 foreign-born immigrants had 612 children, compared to 1,000 Americans having 296 children, it is simply inconceivable but that this vast influx of alien life should not work tremendous and portentous changes in Canada’s life, as a similar influx has completely changed the face of some American institutions in twenty years. Immigration to Canada has jumped from 54,000 in 1851-1861 to 142,000 in 1881-1891, and to 2,000,000 in 1901-1911. It has not come in feeble rivulets that lost their identity in the main current as in the United States up to 1840. It has come to Canada in inundating floods.

Chief mention has been made of the races from the south of Europe because the races from the north of Europe assimilate so quickly that their identity is lost. Of Scandinavians there are in Canada some fifty thou-sand; of Icelanders, easily twenty thousand; and so quickly do they merge with Canadian life that you forget they are foreigners. I was a child in Winnipeg when the first Icelanders arrived, and their rise has been a national epic. I do not believe the first few hundreds had fifty dollars among them. They slept under high board sidewalks for the first nights and erected tar-paper shanties on vacant lots the next day. In these they housed the first winter. Though we Winnipeggers did not realize it, it must have been a dreadful winter to them. Their clothing was of the scantest. Many were without underwear. They lived ten and twenty to a house. The men sawed wood at a dollar and a half a day. The women worked out at one dollar a day. In a few weeks each family had bought a cow and rudiments of winter clothes. By spring they had money to go out on their homesteads. During winter some of the grown men attended school to learn English. Teachers declared they never witnessed such swift mastery of learning. To-day the Icelanders are the most prosperous settlers in Manitoba. The same story could be told of German Mennonites driven from Russia by religious persecution and of Scandinavians driven abroad by poverty. Of course, the weak went to the wall and died, and didn’t whine about the dying, though some mother’s heart must have broken in silence. I recall one splendid young fellow who walked through every grade the public schools afforded, and then through the high school, and was on the point of graduating in medicine when he died from sheer mental and physical exhaustion. This type of settler will build up Canada’s national ideals. It is the other type that gives one pause.

Well what is Canada going to do about it? Bar them out ! Never ! She needs these raw brawny Vandals and Goths of alien lands as much as they need Canada. She needs their hardy virility. They are the crude material of which she must manufacture a man-hood that is not sissified, and one must never forget that some of the most honored names in the United States are from these very races. One of the greatest mathematicians in the United States, the greatest cop-per miners, the richest store keepers, one of the most powerful manufacturers these sprang from the very races that give Canada pause today.

It is on the school rather than on the church that Canada must depend for the nationalizing of these alien races. Nearly all the colonists from the south of Europe have brought their church with them. In one foreign church of North Winnipeg is a congregation of four thousand, and certainly, in the case of the Doukhobors, the influence of the foreign priest has not been for the good of Canada. But none of these races has brought with them a school system, and that throws on the public school system of Canada the burden of preserving national ideals for the future. Will the schools prove equal to it? I wish I could answer unequivocally “yes”; for I recall some beautiful episodes of boys and girls too immature to realize the importance of their work “baching” it in prairie shanties, teaching at forty dollars a month; amid the isolation of Doukhobor and Galician and Ruthenian settlement preserving Canada’s national ideals for the future; little classes of foreigners in the schools of North Winnipeg reading lessons in perfect English with flower gardens below the window kept by themselves the little girls learning sewing and house keeping in upper rooms, the boys learning technical trades in the basement. All this is good and well; but how about the recognition Canada gives these teachers who manufacture men and women out of mud, who do more in a day for the ideals of the nation than all the eloquence that has been spouted in Houses of Parliament? In Germany, they say once an army man always an army man ; for though the pay is ridiculously small, social prestige and recognition are so great that the army is the most desirable vocation. Canada’s teachers in the schools among foreigners are doing for the Dominion what the German army has aimed to do for the empire. Do the Canadian teachers receive the same recognition? The question needs no answer. They receive so little recognition that the majority throw aside the work at their twenty first year and crowd into other over-crowded professions. Meanwhile time moves on, and in twenty years the foreign vote will outnumber that of the native born.