A Sane Scheme of Colonization
The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 15 Mar 1928, p. 83-94

Magrath, C.A., Speaker
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The time for Canada to courageously take hold of the colonizing of this country, using its credit to that end. The asset that newcomers will be to Canada. Some personal background of the speaker. The story of the Galts and the colonization of the territory from Guelph to Goderich. The successful enterprise of financing and providing employment for settlers, with examples. The settling of Western Canada. Reference and comments on some colonization views expressed by some by Sir Henry Thornton and Gen. McRae. The speaker's suggestions for colonization. Financing colonization.
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15 Mar 1928
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Full Text
15th March, 1928.

The speaker was introduced by PRESIDENT FENNELL, and said : In taking up this question of colonization, my intention is first to make it clear to you why I think I am justified in talking about such an important subject. I intend then to show you that colonists have always been financed, principally by indirect methods. I shall then lead on to my belief that the time has arrived when Canada must courageously take hold of the colonizing of this country, using its credit to that end. (Hear, hear.) We must believe if we talk seriously, that newcomers will be an asset to the country. There is no one in this room that wants to see people brought in who will not be an asset to this country, to join us in becoming citizens and to work out a destiny that will be fitted for Canada. And in saying that I believe I am saying a great deal indeed.

Well, then, Mr. President, let me say that next month it will be fifty years since I passed through this city on my way to Northwestern Canada to join a survey party. It took us five weeks to reach the neighbourhood of the present city of Saskatoon. I have seen buffalo grazing there. In October of that year we had worked westward into what is now known as the Province of Alberta. That was in 1878. From that time on I lived a great many years on the plains of Western Canada. In 1885 I entered the service of a company that was formed a couple of years previously by Sir Alexander Galt, then High Commissioner in London. Speaking of the company, we were pioneers in coal mining. Galt coal today is a domestic fuel very extensively used from Winnipeg on the east to Nelson on the west in British Columbia and down to Spokane and other points to the south of the boundary. In the recent trials of Alberta domestic fuels in Ontario, Galt coal was not brought here because the only coals that reached this province were from the lands of the Canadian National Railway. We built something in the neighbourhood of 400 miles of railway, narrow gauge at first, afterward standardized: Over 100 miles of these roads were in the State of Montana where we were seeking a market for our coal. We came into possession of over a million acres of land, and it was my special business to look after that land, and endeavour to get rid of it to settlers, and to that end we became pioneers in irrigation development in Western Canada, building some 120 miles of main irrigation canals.

Sir Alexander Galt as a young man came to Canada and took hold of some colonization work in the Eastern Townships south of Montreal, and very successfully. His father before him undertook the colonization of the territory from Guelph to Goderich. John Galt was dragged, literally dragged, out of this country by his directors, because he undertook to spend their money in giving employment to the settlers in building roads and bridges, but it was discovered afterwards that John Galt was absolutely sound in his methods. (Applause.) Last year I was at Guelph when the city which he founded was celebrating its hundred years, and the tributes were all paid to John Galt. No one ever heard the name mentioned of a director of his company. (Laughter.) Now these Galts, father and son, Sir Alexander and Elliott, were founders of the present city of Lethbridge in Alberta. These men had in them the instincts of the colonizer. Last year the Lethbridge Herald in its Confederation number had a long article on the founder of the city, Sir Alexander Galt, as one of the Fathers of Confederation; and by the way, the writer ran across one of our early settlers who said, speaking of Sir Alexander Galt, "The old gentleman was always interested in us; he seemed in some way to feel that he was responsible for us." Gentlemen, therein is the root and secret of sound colonization methods. (Hear, hear, and applause.) The man who has an appreciation of his fellow-man and sufficient intelligence to see what his fellow-man is trying to do as a pioneer, and a willingness to stand behind that man as far as it is practicable to do so, understands colonization. It was under those auspices that I took hold of the land of which I have spoken.

At a later period the Galts retired from that organization and it passed into other hands. The settlement policy changed and I resigned; otherwise I suppose I would be in that country still. If you will observe, John Galt gave employment to the settlers. He had the financial idea there, the indirect method of assisting them. It was not long ago that I had the opportunity of looking at a letter written at Belleville ninety years ago, and the letter was praying that the Government of the day would spend some more money on navigation canals in order to circulate a little more money among the people. There you have again the idea of financing. Bacon three hundred years ago understood this problem. He appreciated that in the planting of settlers it was necessary to finance them and he said that the commercial mind was not suitable for planting settlers, because the man so endowed wanted interest on his money yearly, whereas, he said, the nobility were willing to wait the 14 or 15 years that it took to root these people on the land. In my judgment that requires only about a third of the time today. In the work we did in Southern Alberta, we were, as I told you, pioneers in irrigation, and we gave employment to the settlers, paying them half cash and half land. There again you get the idea of financing indirectly. We sold the land at $3 an acre, irrigated lands which today are worth $50 an acre. So I think I have made clear what I believe to be absolutely true, whether we recognize the fact or not, that in the planting of people it is essential to take the human point of view in respect of them, and helping carry them through until they get rooted on the land. (Applause.)

Towards the end of last century and the beginning of this, there seemed to be a wave of prosperity passing over the whole world. Vast numbers of people came into Western Canada. We had a Minister of Immigration who courageously let the world know that we had free lands; and we gave away millions of acres of some of the finest lands to be found in any country in the world. At that particular period we seemed to be passing through a mad era of railway construction. I am not saying that offensively at all, but we were circulating money in the country, and there again you get the idea of the settlers' being able to fall back upon some organization that was distributing money and bringing money into the country. Now, gentlemen, we have pioneers; pioneers are not people who have money. A man who has money usually wants to stay in the country where he has been brought up. Most of our western settlers, in my judgment, come into that country so close to insolvency, that it is to the credit of the banks and the mortgage companies that they do as much as they do for the settlers. (Applause.)

At the end of the war we seemed to have the ball at our feet: but the cry was then addressed to all governments to spend no money. To my mind it was most unsound; development problems called for money expenditures, and instead of waiting, as it seemed we were, until these small Balkan states found their feet and we could all go forward together, we should have been actively taking up the question of colonizing this country long ago. So far as the present system is concerned, I would say this in fairness to the Minister of Immigration, that he can get the same results, whatever those results may be, as his immediate predecessors under the immigration system to which he has fallen heir. If we look back forty years, this country was kept warm by the use of wood. There was no coal burned in Canada. forty years ago, of any consequence, and my own view is that we could use wood in the early winter and in the spring season, to our own advantage in taking care of our unemployment in these long winters. But it is not convenient to use wood, and besides that is only a minor national problem and no one, has any time to give it any consideration. However, forty years ago we were using wood, and one cord per day was about as much as we could expect to be sawn. Today we can get 25 cords of wood sawn in a day. The system has changed. That is what is needed in connection with this colonization idea. The system has to be changed. We have got to come up to modern methods, we have got to have courage and belief in our own country and make use of the credit of our country if we wish to place people in the country. (Applause.)

I have been asked to refer to some colonization views expressed by some of our leading men. For instance, Sir Henry Thornton recently suggested that the railway tariffs might be increased, as I remember, five per cent., by which they would obtain some twenty million dollars a year, to be used for colonization. Now one of our weaknesses is a tendency to worry over details, rather than dealing with principles. It is the greatest weakness we human beings seem to possess. First let us determine principles. So far as I am concerned I am entirely in agreement with Sir Henry Thornton when he says we need to put money into this in a big way. Only a few days ago Gen. McRae came forward with an idea, having in view the reclaiming of some of our marginal lands, lands adjoining our timbered' areas. But again I say, do not let us worry about details. He wants the credit of the country to the extent of three hundred million dollars, and as I have confidence in this country and in the foundation stock of this country I am ready to endorse him in his suggestion.

Since the autumn of 1923 I have at odd times been discussing this question of colonization. My idea of course is that we should not attempt anything of the character I have been referring to unless we can get some of the very best minds of the country into an organization, men with high patriotic views. I believe we have men of the younger generation, men of great administrative ability, who could take hold of a problem of this character and safeguard every dollar that goes into it. Otherwise, as far as I am concerned, no money, unless you have the brains, unless you have the integrity plus the capacity; and this country has that, I am proud to say. (Applause.)

My view is that a national organization should seek people wishing to make their home on the land, giving preference to our own Canadians; next in order, British settlers, followed by people from other selected countries. That is a task for a great national colonizing organization, in which the credit of the country should be used. I believe I can see the day when, instead of $300,000,000, we might have $500,000,000 in that character of work. Everything would depend upon the sanity of the organization. Unless, as I have said, we get that, then let us keep out of it.

My opinion is that colonization should be divided into two heads. We should have the defensive branch, under the political head, the defensive branch being the branch that holds the sieve, through which people must pass before they can come in here to become citizens of this country. The offensive branch to be under the organization that I have referred to, the non-political organization. Money, as I see it, should not be spent in beating the woods in foreign countries to drive people into this country. Money should be spent in this country to help establish those people in becoming citizens of Canada. (Applause.) I believe by the adoption of such a policy we shall find people only too anxious to try it out in Canada.

The sanest speech I have run across in connection with this colonization movement was made in this city last June by the Chief justice of this province, Sir William Mulock. It consisted of only about half a dozen lines but he evidently knows how to put much in little, because he cautioned his hearers to maintain in Canada our foundation stock,--and I do not have to tell you where they come from--a strong, virile people, and he added these significant words : "A vacant house is far better than a bad tenant." I think that was an exceedingly able remark. (Hear, hear.) It is an easy matter to hold the sieve at our ports, but on this long boundary between Canada and the United States it is an entirely different matter. The United States has not adopted the quota system through any accident. It is because they allowed people to come into their country in vast numbers; for many years before the war they were coming in at the rate of a million a year. I am not saying anything against our neighbours, for they are a great people, but they themselves admit that they have in their centres of population types of people that would be absolutely dangerous to us, and as we grow and prosper they will be heading for the boundary and getting across unless we develop that defensive system I refer to, that sieve. It is not going to be done in a week. We have got to have an organization united with the cities and the boundaries and back to the central organization, the lines leading throughout the country. We must know who is to come into this country. We must place them, and in that way protect ourselves against those who would do much to destroy us: A few drops of strychnine in a pail of water may amount to very little, but put them in a glass of water, and it is a different story. I feel that we should be at that today, because as I say, it will take a number of years to bring it to a proper basis.

In respect to the service that would be engaged in planting people in Canada, I would invite your attention to the work of the Hydro Electric Power Commission. (Applause.) You cannot blame me for taking advantage of the occasion to let you know something about an institution that is functioning in your midst. What is the policy ? What is the system ? We have to determine whether the province needs more power; we have to make up our mind where to get it in the best interests of the province; we have to determine what it will cost; then we go to the provincial government and say, "There is the situation; we need more power; there is where we think it should be obtained." It is the function of the Government to say "Yes" or "No". It is the privilege of the Government to say "No", but once it says "Yes", and the Legislature votes the money, then we run it after that; and if we do not carry on that work aright, when we come with the next project the Government would probably say "No." Now I apply that system to a great national organization in colonization work. If we get into that organization a man of great administrative ability, common sense would lead him to believe that he must link up every province of Canada. That is the way you can draw people. He would call on each province to submit, or would give them the opportunity to submit projects to him. Each province would select land suitable for settlement. He would say: "I have got the money, I have got the organization." The provinces would submit to him projects of land not exceeding, say, six miles square, or ten miles square, so that he could have a Supervisor that could work within that area and look after the people in that area. Naturally he would call upon the Provinces to supply the lands,--to tell you where the lands could be had. In a selected block there might be fifty per cent. suitable for settlement. Market conditions, soil conditions, all the conditions necessary to enable a man to get a square deal on the land would be carefully ascertained. There has been too much of that wild business of running all over the shop and getting people on land on which they cannot make a living. I would call on the province for those details; I would bring that material together in the form of a specification, and in that specification would be a financial statement as to the amount of money necessary to look after that project. You might have to buy those lands; you might have to do what Gen. McRae suggests, using the money in clearing free lands, but all this would be set out in a financial statement. When that passed my proposed organization I would send that in as we send our hydro projects in to the province; I would send that to the Minister of Immigration, and it would be his function to say "Yes" or "No". He would have his own organization pass upon it, and if they came to the conclusion it was a sound project and suitable for settlement then he would pass it. With that I would expect to get from the Parliament of Canada the authority to issue land settlement bonds up to an amount not exceeding what the financial statement in that specification shows, that is, bonds to be issued as and when needed for looking after those people.

Now gentlemen, we seem to be alarmed when we talk about $300,000,000 or $500,000,000, we seem to be afraid that we are going to get all that money spent and something may happen that we will not get the money back. You know very _ well that if in dealing with one project the organization is not making a success, the time they go back for the second or third project the Minister will say, "We don't think so." So there is not that danger that we sometimes seem to apprehend that if we adopt a system of that kind we are suddenly going to get three million dollars out and we may never get it back. The type of men I am thinking of do not use money like drunken sailors, they will move slowly and cautiously until they see the method that gets the best results, and if they are getting the results then they will move forward with a good deal of force. (Applause.) Today the Hydro Commission has behind it nearly two hundred million dollars of the money of the Province, and it is safe. (Applause.) It is only a few weeks since the Provincial Government had to borrow money for the Temiskaming Railway. There is nothing more sensitive to adverse wind than capital, we all know that, and yet they offered those bonds for a shade over four per cent, and capital showed that it is not very much afraid of the credit of this Province. That is the evidence. The same thing would apply in the other situation. The idea of Canada being afraid to lend its credit for $300,000, 000 to get the right type of people into this country, to me is inconceivable, when this Province has already given its credit to the tune of $200,000,000, and will have to a considerable amount more before long.

The cry is frequently heard that we must have no paternalism in connection with our newcomers. The cry is not based on knowledge and experience. I have lived among settlers, I have gone in amongst them, I have seen the dug-out conditions under which they live, and to think that they are trying to build up Canada building for themselves, it is true, but doing work in building up this country--and to talk about using a little money to help them along so long as they are willing to stay out there on the land, to talk about it as paternalism, is to my mind inept. People who talk that way do not understand the problems and difficulties settlers have to contend with. (Applause.) Some of our successful settlers would say, I suppose, that I do not know much about the subject because I have not farmed. As a matter of fact, I have. In 1903 or 1904 I believe I got the first wheat, the earliest wheat on the market, the earliest fall wheat. I shipped out a carload on the 6th of August, I think it was, and as far as I know I was the first on the market. However, I did not stay at it very long, because I did not find it very profitable. (Laughter and applause.) Very successful settlers say, "Why shouldn't the newcomers of today do as we did? We made the grade without any assistance. I am not altogether sure they are correct; I am not altogether sure, but the people who make that statement were in the country when there were vast sums of money being circulated, and reaching them indirectly through those railways and expenditures I have referred to. But they cannot deny this, that every man has to make the grade the first three or four years; it is a difficult grade; they stall on the grade, they struggle on the grade. I do not care how successful a man is today, that is his history and he will admit it, and say if there was a booster on that grade and he had got up and made the grade two years earlier, he would have been producing wealth for his country during the two years that this country lost. (Applause.)

The planting of people is very similar to the planting of an orchard. You go to the nursery and you select your trees. You plant them. You cultivate them; you care for them until they take root. Then what happens? They commence to produce for whom? For the man who has the orchard. That man is not deterred from doing that because he knows that a certain proportion of those trees will not take root. That is the history of all planting. He has to pay for the trees that have not taken root, he has his time expended in that work, which he loses, but he knows that the trees which do take root will produce for him and pay him for it. The suggestion has been made that Canada is in the place of the man who owns the orchard, because the successful settlers become tax-payers for all of Canada, and therefore it is the credit of all the country that should be used in helping establish them. But frequently the statement is made, "Why don't our railway corporations do this work?" They have no money with which they can take care of those who fail; they cannot call upon the successful to pay for the unsuccessful.

We can talk colonization, but as I say we will never get anywhere until we take hold of it pretty much along the lines I have suggested, the indirect financing of settlers, which nobody seems to have seen was the courageous way of saying this country is worth settling with the people we want in this country. It cannot be jumped into quickly; it has got to be developed slowly. We have got to buy our experience. If I were responsible for immigration I would endeavour as a preliminary step to enlist the services of a man like Sir Herbert Ames. He is absolutely out of Canadian politics today, he is living in the neighborhood of Boston, he is interested in the League of Nations. During the war he organized the Patriotic Fund, and he did it well. He went over and took hold of the finances of the League of Nations; I am told he did it magnificently. He is an organizer, he is a capable man, and he is known in every capital of Europe. I would be disposed to take a man like that as a preliminary step, and tell him to come back to me in six months and tell me something about the nature of the organization, the type of organization, needed. He knows where the people are. I would place before him certain stated questions as to the necessity of applying the quota system in Canada, the sources of supply of people we would get; and I think probably at the end of six months he might illuminate those questions in such a way that we might see our way to move forward a little more rapidly than we have been moving. We Canadians seem to deplore the fact that people are not coming to Canada as they have been going to the United States. On the whole I think we have been very fortunate. The hurricane method has decided disadvantages. They have been blown in to our neighbors at a terrific rate, and they have adopted the quota system. We are of course drifting along and in time new people will invade us in great numbers. There is no question about Canada getting people if we wait, but they will invade us in great numbers as they did the United States. We have not reached the period when they will come to us as they have been going to the United States, but the period is coming, and that is another reason I say we want to have some organization to control it, and not be forced at the last moment, as our neighbors have been forced, to get a quota system to protect ourselves. (Applause.)

My last word to a patient audience is to remember Sir William Mulock's advice, Maintain your foundation stock, and a vacant house is better than a bad tenant. (Applause.)

The thanks of the club were tendered by Sir William Hearst.

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A Sane Scheme of Colonization

The time for Canada to courageously take hold of the colonizing of this country, using its credit to that end. The asset that newcomers will be to Canada. Some personal background of the speaker. The story of the Galts and the colonization of the territory from Guelph to Goderich. The successful enterprise of financing and providing employment for settlers, with examples. The settling of Western Canada. Reference and comments on some colonization views expressed by some by Sir Henry Thornton and Gen. McRae. The speaker's suggestions for colonization. Financing colonization.