MP-1987.34.7 | Canada, the country of opportunities, poster, ON, 1910

Canada, the country of opportunities, poster, ON, 1910
Essex County Chronicle
1910, 19th century
Block printing ?
22 x 14 cm
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  Art (2774) , Poster (21)
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Keys to History

During the 1900s, Canada invested enormously to connect the West to eastern seaports. Three transcontinental railways crossed the empty landscape of northern Ontario and snaked through the Rockies on separate routes. Agriculture produced the bulk of Canada's exports and the freight railways needed to pay off their investors. The country needed experienced farmers, and people of British stock would preserve an identity that some claimed was in jeopardy with the influx of immigrants from central Europe. Frankly, most Canadians favoured people like themselves, preferably from England. Other European immigrants were thought acceptable, but few French would leave la douce France for a frozen Canada. England was a better prospect, and the government paid lecturers to visit rural villages to attract farmers' sons frustrated with "the Old Country". It worked. Tens of thousands packed up and took ship for Canada.

However, the promised prosperity was fading, even in 1910. By 1912 Canada was gripped by an economic depression that would last until 1915. Drought and other miseries afflicted prairie farmers. In 1914 much of the wheat crop failed. Canada meant poverty and deep disappointment. When war came, enlistment promised a job and a free trip home to England as well as patriotic duty done. Seven out of ten soldiers in the First Contingent were British-born; many of them recent immigrants. Even by the end of the war, half the members of the CEF were British-born, compared to 15 per cent of the Australian Imperial Force.

  • What

    This leaflet was distributed in the little English village of Writtle as part of a systematic campaign to attract agricultural immigrants to Canada.

  • Where

    Writtle, in Essex, was a small rural village in eastern England, not far from London, where immigration agents hoped that land hunger would make Canada attractive to farmers' sons. Far more British immigrants came from cities and towns, bringing urban skills that were also scarce in Canada.

  • When

    This lecture, at the end of 1910, coincided with the decline of Laurier-era prosperity as the business cycle slowed, inflation worried investors and European rivalries seemed to be pushing the continent to war.

  • Who

    H. C. Lee was one of several paid lecturers, in this case by the Canadian Northern Railway, whose line from Toronto to Prince Rupert across the Prairies was one of two new transcontinental lines trying to compete with the older Canadian Pacific Railway.