The Span of a Canadian Generation
Publication:
The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 25 Apr 1912, p. 238-249


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Yeigh, Frank, Speaker
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Text
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Speeches
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Canada an infant in arms when measured by the calendar of time. Our life and time and history in Canada measured by centuries; just a little over half-a-century of time in the Canadian West. How much has been accomplished in that comparatively brief list of years from Canada's national point of view. Taking a backward look to the beginning of the span of a generation in Canada: a review. The Canadian of pre-Confederation days. The changed scene in Canada today. The immigrant as we know him unknown a generation ago. Estimates of Canadians in the United States; estimates of those returning to Canada. Realizing what this human inflow into Canada means, as we end a generation span and enter another. Countries represented on the pages of our immigration blue books. The worth of the immigrant to Canada in terms of dollars. Another way of estimating the value of the immigrant: by what he brings in of his money, settler's effects, and stock. The wisdom, occasionally, of looking back; the justification for dwelling on the present with all its allurements; a place for dreaming and for prophesying of the Canada that is to be. Looking forward to the Canada of the future: at increased agricultural production; at Canada's population; our transportation system; settlement of lands; an expanded fishing industry; income from the pulp and paper industry; world trade. Canada on trial now, with the world watcher her. Lifting our eyes to the farther horizon, past material goods. Concern for the character of the social fabric of Canada as a nation. Daring to dream that the coming composite Canadian will uphold the high standards that the best of our Anglo-Saxon civilization has ever held in the past. Optimism for the Canada of tomorrow and for the native-born Canadian.
Date of Original:
25 Apr 1912
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English
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Full Text
THE SPAN OF A CANADIAN GENERATION
An Address by MR. PRANK YEIGH, Toronto, before the Empire Club of Canada, April 25, 1912.

Mr. President and Gentlemen,--

When measured by the calendar of time Canada is only an infant in arms. Time is, indeed, a relative term. When you stand in front of the great Pyramids of Egypt, or on the Acropolis Hill at Athens, or on the excavated ruins of the Roman Forum you realize that time is to be measured by milleniums--not by the span, of a century. When you go to the Old Land you discover that England can already measure her history by, thousand-year periods. That fact becomes visualized when you stand, for instance, in Westminster Hall or see the old Round Tower of Windsor Castle.

But when you come to Canada, while you may measure our life and time and history by centuries, they are comparatively few. It is only four centuries since Jac-, ques Cartier sailed up the St. Lawrence; only three centuries since Champlain founded Quebec; it is only a trifle over one century since the first streams of migration found their way into this Province across the Stt, Lawrence and Niagara Rivers and over the ocean.

And when you go to the Canadian West, the big, boundless, and boastful West-you discover that they have only a little over half-a-century to their credit since population turned in that direction. Thus we find that, as we move westward, time seems to shrink; more is crowded into a day than ever before, a year may be put into a week, a week into a day, so that when we sneak. of the span of a Canadian generation, meaning the span of a human life, one is impressed with how much has been accomplished in that comparatively brief -list) of years from our national point of view. We are very-, apt to be impatient with yesterday as we are growing impatient with history, and yet it is wise occasional to take the backward look. Let us today take the' backward look to the beginning of the span of a generation of which I am to speak.

A generation ago in Canada there was no nine-province Dominion as we have it today; there was no Greater Britain in the 20th-century sense; there was no Empire spirit as we understand it today. Indeed, there was no Canadian spirit such as today exists. Much less than a century ago, when Queen Victoria was in the earlier years of her reign, England herself was known as the tight little island and the Empire was just being born in its wider significance. It was during the Victorian Era that Britain became the Great and Greater Britain, and Canada developed proportionately in her relationship to it.

The Canadian of pre-Confederation days had to do without a great many things that he has today. He could not sit in his office and throw his voice into a telephone and have it thrown back at him from a gramophone. He had no bicycle with which to run a human being down; there was no automobile to run down the man on the bicycle who ran down the other fellow. It was a time and day when he had no typewriter, for instance, either of the machine type or of the more interesting human variety. The Canadian in pre-Confederation days was compelled to live without breakfast foods, and it is astonishing how well he survived! There was no X-ray existing then to reveal his inner mechanism; appendicitis had not been invented, and he heard nothing about bacilli and bacteria, germs and microbes to disturb his dreams. Electricity a generation ago was unharnessed, and . Niagara's waters could flow where they chose; cable messages were just then being sent on wires under the sea; today the messages between men and between nations are sent without wires over the sea.

A generation ago we missed many things that we have today. The people who lived then missed the thrill 'of these modern days of standing in front of a bulletin board, with open eyes and bated breath, until it is discovered whether Casey made a home run at a baseball match! They missed the thrill then, that we may now enjoy, of getting the very latest sporting extra from the press and finding that some two-year-old mare, of which one had never heard, had won a race away down in Lexington. So we are living in live days when things are being done in a live way.

In those pre-Confederation days moreover Toronto was without street cars and straps, without chlorinated water and filtration beds, without new union stations or viaducts, and without a great many things we find necessary to our enjoyment today.

A generation ago in Canada there were only three million people; they were scattered in a long uneven line along the great rivers and great lakes', at that time there were only a few thousand people north of Lake Superior populating the vast prairie spades; at that time the centres of population of the West could be counted on the fingers of one hand; at that time the Hudson's Bay Company ruled supreme over an area as large as an empire and no one dared say them nay. The Indian of that day was under the fond delusion that all the world of the West belonged to him, and that, in the language of the Indian treaty of today, it was all his as long as the sun might shine and water might run.

A span of a generation ago no cattle roamed the foothills of Alberta; no elevators raised their tea-caddy fronts on the plains; no self-binders laid low the golden grain, for wheat had not been sown and was not grown. There was no conception of the potentialities of the West as the granary of the Empire. A generation ago there were no tracks of steel as rivals of the sinuous trail of the Indian, and the broncho and Red river oxcart were the sole means of transportation. Thus when we look at the near past and make a comparison in this span of a generation between its beginning and today, we find how vastly Canada has progressed and how many things have happened during that time.

A generation ago Ottawa was only a small town on the banks of the Rideau, Toronto was only a small city on the banks of the Don. There was no Winnipeg then, inconceivable as it is, but only a fort, two or three hundred people huddled around it, a brace of rivers, and any amount of unappropriated soil to be surveyed into town lots in later years. A generation ago the Rocky Mountains were practically undiscovered; the rich gold-fields of the Yukon were not dreamed of; the French-Canadian blacksmith, LaRose, had not stumbled on a piece of ore up in Cobalt, leading to the mining since then of $85,000,000 worth of silver; the navvies building the C.P.R., digging through a Sudbury hill, had not laid open the great hidden storehouse of nickel.

A generation ago Edmonton was only a shack on a hill; a generation ago there was no Calgary, no Regina, no Saskatoon, no boom towns or boom lands in the West. A generation ago the provinces down by the Atlantic were looking askance at Confederation schemes. Upper and Lower Canada were quarrelling like children, under the Union Act, and certain English statesmen even ventured the opinion that Canada was a millstone around the neck of the Mother Land. That is only the span of a generation ago.

In those pre-Confederation days Canada's future must have seemed dark indeed; it must have required great optimism and faith on the part of her statesmen to foresee the future in all its fullness. The pulse of nationhood had only begun to beat very faintly through its hitherto unrelated parts, and all this was the condition of things nationally only a generation ago.

But we are more interested in today. This is the day of today, and what a change has come over the scene since the beginning of this span about which I am speaking. Since Confederation we have, as Kipling tells us, "macadamized some stretches of our road towards nationhood": we are taking a hand in the Imperial game; we have been and are working out some experiments in government, the results of which may benefit the whole Empire; we are making history, and we are making new country very rapidly. Take the northland of New Brunswick, with its stored-up riches; take northern Quebec now reaching to Hudson Bay; take the hinterlands of Ontario, stretching up to and down on the other side of the Height of Land to James Bay, take the great space in and beyond the trio of prairie provinces, take the big bill country in northern British Columbia, where we-have the far-flung spaces in which to make new country as the human inflow spreads out and hives off from older lands. In the West alone there is a sufficient area to make nine provinces more! The handful of people of a generation ago in the West has grown to nearly two millions, with an increase of 174 per , cent. in the last ten-year period. The few handfuls of acres then tilled around a score of Hudson Bay posts have developed into a tilled farm of ten million acres. The tide of wheat in the span of a generation' has rolled north another degree, to quote Kipling again, and, the grain that won first prizes at the Centennial, and St. Louis Expositions was wheat grown away up in the . Peace River Valley, far north of Edmonton and a thousand miles north of the International Boundary. The wheat that took the first $1,000 prize a few weeks ago, at a Land Exhibition held in New York, in which the Continent took part, was grown by a Saskatchewan settler in the northern end of his great district. The twenty-five cattle with which the ranching industry was started much less than half a generation ago, have grown into a million and a half of horses, cattle, and sheep pasturing on the rich nature grasses of Southern Alberta within the shadow of the foothills. The irrigation: canal a generation ago was an unthought-of factor. Irrigation canals hundreds of miles in length are today a feature of Southern Alberta, making possible "dry farming" on a wide scale, where they are already growing a fine grade of wheat which is today, and will more and mote in the future, find its way westward to the Orient and perhaps eastward via the Panama Canal.

A generation ago the immigrant as we know him was unknown; "Colonist's Specials" were unheard of, and the Canadian Government had no regard for, had no, Department for, and had no statistics of the immigrant. Within the last fifteen-year period over two million of people have found their way into Canada, 75 percent of them English-speaking, 25 percent foreign-speaking. It is quite evident from our late census figures that they did not all stay in Canada; we do not have the statistics of those who leave us, but over two millions came into the country. Of that number one third came from the United States, showing that some of the Canadians in the United States have been coming home.

It is estimated that there are still two million Canadians in the United States, or three millions, if you include those of Canadian birth or sprung from Canadian parentage. Thus three quarters of a million of those have come back, and they are coming back in ever increasing numbers. Have you ever stopped to realize just what this human inflow into Canada means, as we- are ending a generation span and entering on another? Did you ever look over the list of the countries represented on the pages of our immigration blue books? The 400,000 people who came to Canada in 1912 represented 64 different countries and nationalities, an inflow representing over a thousand a day for every day in the year.

What is the worth of the immigrant to Canada? It has been estimated that a law-abiding, consuming, and producing immigrant added to our population is worth a thousand dollars. I would take that a very good bargain for a high grade immigrant. He is probably worth a good deal more. There is another way of estimating the value of the immigrant, by what he brings in of his money, settler's effects, and stock. During the last ten years, it is estimated at over $600,000,000.

At the birth of Confederation in 1867 there was not a single line of railway north of Lake Superior, while today there are there ten thousand miles in the West, with thousands more in construction or in contemplation. Then they were only beginning to dream of a transcontinental railway! Now there soon will be three sending their express trains through three of the great passes of the western mountains.

At the time of Confederation or before, the big end of Canada, as the "West" is called, was "the great loneland," and a lonely land it must in truth have been, but what do we find today? Three hundred new towns have lately been placed on the map and many of them have actually come into existence. There is a new town being born every week of the year these days in Western Canada. Let your mind dwell on what a new town means in a country, a new group of humanity requiring to be fed and clothed, and giving of their labour and of their' thought as a contribution to the country. Only a generation ago a Hudson's Bay Factor told a Committee of the British. House of Commons that life could not be sustained in the Northwest. The statement was possibly based on a certain degree of self-interest. Since that time, or taking, 1912 as an illustration, the value of the Western field crops reached the tidy sum of $200,000,000. The Factor who told the Committee of the British House of Commons that life could not be sustained there was mistaken; since then the price of western lands, that then I suppose were at zero point, have now reached an average of $14 or $15 an acre, and in saying this I have no western lands to sell! The Federal Parliament of 1867 had not a single representative from the West. today 34 members are in Parliament; and when the redistribution takes place based on the last census, the West will have between 6o and 70, or one quarter of the whole House.

When Confederation was mooted, Manitoba was not even a name. Today the postage stamp province has become the shinplaster province, almost dollar bill in her new size. At that time Saskatchewan and Alberta were in the womb of the future and British Columbia an unpopulated province. Thus the span of a Canadian generation records a most marvellous story of advance.

If the span of a Canadian generation just past tells such a story, shows such a record, what of the span of the generation to come? It is wise to look backward occasionally; it is equally justifiable to dwell on the present with all its allurements, because today is right here, but there is also a place for dreaming and for prophesying of the Canada that is to be. I cannot conceive of the Canadian who does not thrill as he pauses to think of the Canada of today; and of the coming Canada.

Let us therefore look forward for a moment or two, and if need be, dream, and dream. It may be dangerous business to prophesy, for the prophets of failure of Confederation were wrong; the prophets of the un-productivity of the West were wrong; the prophets of annexation were and are and always will be wrong, I take it; but among those who prophesied correctly ere Confederation came to pass was Joseph Howe who away back in 1851 predicted a transcontinental railway. Although it took thirty years to make his dream come true, yet he dreamed the dream and the dream came true.

If ten percent of our 200,000,000 acre of wheat-field in the west yields 200,000,000 bushels today, what will be the yield when 20 percent is under cultivation? That day will see the 200,000,000 bushels increased to at least half a billion bushels; and the 50,000,000 bushels of wheat we are exporting will have quadrupled, perhaps in the shape of flour and food products, and per hags, shipped in part by way of the Panama Canal. What of Canada's population in the span of the coming generation?--three and a half millions in 1877, seven and a quarter millions in 1912, what about 1951 ? Shall we say 12,000,000? Is that a dream that will not or cannot be fulfilled? The day when the two million of the West will be six million, and when it will possibly be the big end of Canada in inhabitants as it now is in geographical area. What of Canada's transportation system a generation ahead? There are big schemes under way in this regard in Canada today. We now have 26,000 miles of railway,--a remarkable mileage for a country of less than eight millions, but that mileage will soon be vastly increased when the pioneer Line across the continent shall have for its companions three or four or five, 'and there will be business for all. The day is coming when you will hear a man calling out in a Winnipeg marble station: "All aboard for Fort Churchill, Fort Nelson, and Liverpool via Hudson Bay," "all aboard for Dunvegan, the Peace River, Fort Simpson, and Fort McPherson," "all aboard for Dawson City and the land of the Canadian Midnight Sun."

Is that a dream that may not come true in the early years? The day when the flour-mills of Canada will be inadequate to the transformation of wheat into food products to help feed ourselves and the other peoples: of mankind; when the unmeasured electrical potentialities of the Niagaras of Canada will be developed beyond any dream of the present; when the million developed horsepower of today will be quadrupled, when electricity will be applied to the comfort of mankind, to the farmer, to the home, to industry in ways of which we do not now dream. I think those of us. who saw a certain French Count sailing over our city in the twilight of an autumn in an air ship have reason to ask if it is too much of a dream to expect that some day the vessel of the air may supersede the earth-borne methods of oxcart and prairie schooner. It will be a day when Hudson Bay will be a summer resort; of Winnipeg; when Northern Ontario may rival Southern Ontario, and that is among the likely things; when the vast Quebec of the north, the largest province now, will have a great population, and when the Maritime Provinces will still hold their own.

In the coming span of the new generation there will be no barren lands in the Dominion. Latitude does not altogether govern the climate in Canada, when you find wheat of good quality, 62 lb. to the bushel, is grown at Fort Simpson in latitude 62. Do you comprehend just where latitude 62 is, and what that means? It is estimated that there is as much arable land north of Saskatchewan and Alberta as there is within the bounds of those two great western provinces, where wheat may be grown.

What of the generation to come, when the fishing industry of Canada will expand from the thirty-five millions of products value today to sixty millions, for we have the world's most extensive fishing grounds? We are in reality only beginning to fish, we are only beginning to go whaling, with a catch of 1,200 in 1912.

What of the generation to come when Canada's billion acres of pulpwood will be producing a revenue beside which the revenue of today is trivial; when the mining production of today of $100,000,000 shall rise to $200,000,000; when the forest products of the present $160,000,000 will have doubled and the billion-dollar trade of Canada, which makes the $131,000,000 at Confederation look small, will be far outdistanced?

Do you realise moreover that we sell or buy from no less than 7o different countries of the word; that the bank deposits of Canada, which were only $37,000,000 at Confederation, have also passed the billion mark?

What would we have done during the last span of a generation if John Bull had not put his hands into his capacious pocket and pulled out billions of dollars for us and said, "Here, my children, invest this and build up your country?" I tell you it means a great deal for the coming span of a Canadian generation whether and if John Bull will continue to keep his hands in and occasionally pull them out of his pocket!

Is the day coming when the savings of the people, that are now well over $100 per head, shall increase at a proportionate rate; when the revenue of Canada, which was only $13,000,000 the first year of Confederation, and is now $175,000,000 will climb the ladder of figures?

However, this is talking about Things, and Things are not all the things in Canada; there are higher levels. As there is the harvest of the soil and of the sea and of the hills-and we have the right to rejoice over the reaping,-there is also a possible harvest in national character and high national ideals. One of our Canadian statesmen penned the word recently that Canada is on trial just now and the world is watching her. We have not come perchance to the parting of the ways, but we have come to a place where the old road broadens. If we fall into the mistake of supposing money to be 'the main affair and .are more afraid of the empty pocket than of the impoverished soul, -if in our frantic haste for our business for each passing day and the state of the stock market, we never lift our eyes to the farther horizon, then no matter with what increase our prosperity comes to us; we ourselves shall be "insignificant clods untroubled by a spark." Should we not then as Canadians facing anew generation be somewhat concerned, not only about increased methods of transportation or, new Welland Canals or Georgian Bay waterways, r spending millions on a Navy, but also as to the character of the social fabric of Canada as a nation? What type is this melting-pot of the nations going to evolve? What is the human amalgam of Canada going to be? We take the people of the Old Country, the Englishman, the Irishman, the Scotchman, and the Welshman, and roll them together and make a Canadian of the four with all their qualities combined!

What is going to be the composite Canadian of tomorrow, with over half a hundred different nationalities and peoples and tongues represented? May we not dare to dream that the coming composite Canadian will uphold the high standards that the best of our Anglo-Saxon civilization has ever held in the past; that he will stand, not theoretically but practically, for 'the righteousness that alone exalts a nation; may we not anticipate the day when the offspring of the foreign element in our population shall have been shaped into fine national material?

A young man crossed on a steamer from one of our Canadian ports a few weeks ago to England and came in personal contact with everyone of the one hundred and fifty immigrants on the boat going from Canada. They were mostly foreigners who had been in Canada from four to seven years, and had made money enough to return to their respective homes in Europe or elsewhere, either on a visit or permanently. But what did he find? That only two or three had any elementary conception of our national system of government or of voting. The only idea they had was that they could sell their vote for money on the day which was called election day. Only two or three of them had any relationship to, or interest in, the Church, and none of them had the slightest basic conception of what Empire or Canadianism means.

Despite this depressing evidence of non-assimilation, I am optimistic as to the composite Canadian of tomorrow, optimistic too regarding the native-born. I am looking for the day when we will think and act, dominionally (if I may coin the word), as well as imperially, and when the words of "Fidelis" will be even more true than they are today,

" Four nations welded into one, with long historic past,

Have found, in these our western wilds, one common life at last;

Through the young giant's mighty limbs, that stretch from sea to sea,

There runs a throb of conscious life, of waking energy;

From Nova Scotia's misty coast to far Columbia's shore,

She wakes,--a band of scattered homes and colonies no more,

But a young nation, with her life full beating in her breast,

A noble future in her eyes, the Briton of the West."

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The Span of a Canadian Generation


Canada an infant in arms when measured by the calendar of time. Our life and time and history in Canada measured by centuries; just a little over half-a-century of time in the Canadian West. How much has been accomplished in that comparatively brief list of years from Canada's national point of view. Taking a backward look to the beginning of the span of a generation in Canada: a review. The Canadian of pre-Confederation days. The changed scene in Canada today. The immigrant as we know him unknown a generation ago. Estimates of Canadians in the United States; estimates of those returning to Canada. Realizing what this human inflow into Canada means, as we end a generation span and enter another. Countries represented on the pages of our immigration blue books. The worth of the immigrant to Canada in terms of dollars. Another way of estimating the value of the immigrant: by what he brings in of his money, settler's effects, and stock. The wisdom, occasionally, of looking back; the justification for dwelling on the present with all its allurements; a place for dreaming and for prophesying of the Canada that is to be. Looking forward to the Canada of the future: at increased agricultural production; at Canada's population; our transportation system; settlement of lands; an expanded fishing industry; income from the pulp and paper industry; world trade. Canada on trial now, with the world watcher her. Lifting our eyes to the farther horizon, past material goods. Concern for the character of the social fabric of Canada as a nation. Daring to dream that the coming composite Canadian will uphold the high standards that the best of our Anglo-Saxon civilization has ever held in the past. Optimism for the Canada of tomorrow and for the native-born Canadian.