British Settlement in Canada
The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 28 Sep 1933, p. 236-250
Hornby, Brigadier-General M.L., Speaker
Media Type
Item Type
The speaker's plan for dealing with new settlers from the British Isles. Response to the questions "Do we need any immigration at all at the present time and why is it necessary to talk about it?" Reasons why the speaker believes that we do need immigration, with illustrative examples. Why the immigration should be British immigration. The general question of development. Response to people who are adverse to any immigration at the present time, and their reasons for that adversity. The speaker's advocation of not immediate immigration, but of the preparation for immigration by developing land and building houses. The question of British immigration and why the speaker recommends that we should set before ourselves the ideal of British immigration, and prepare for it. Canada's higher destiny. Details of the speaker's plan for settling British families on the land. Proper selection of the new comers. Who should make the selection. Specific suggestions and recommendations as to how a British immigration should be handled. The question of finance. Maintaining the tie of kinship. Excellent reception from the Parliamentary Migration Committee in Britain. Endeavouring to make this scheme more known throughout Canada. Taking preliminary steps to establish some of the settlements as outlined in the east of Canada.
Date of Original
28 Sep 1933
Language of Item
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Full Text
September 28, 1933

The speaker was introduced by the President, Major W James Baxter.

GENERAL M. L. HORNBY: Mr. Chairman, Gentlemen I thank you very much for the invitation to be here today I am very glad indeed to have an opportunity to lay before you my views about what I consider is one of those vital questions which this country and the Old Country and the Empire have to deal with at the present time. I will endeavour to explain to you as fully as I can my plan for dealing with new settlers from the British Isles. If there is any point I leave unexplained, I hope you will ask me questions-I should like to be satisfied that everyone here has the details.

Before I go into the details of the plan, I should like to deal with one or two other aspects which I think bear on the subject" particularly at the present time. My first question which is simple, is this: Do we need any immigration at all at the present time and why is it necessary to talk about it? I, myself, believe that we do need immigration. We are passing through a depression but I believe that depression is largely caused by the fact that all development and all enterprise in this country--or a great deal of it and all over the whole British Empire has dried up, owing to financial stringency, and I believe there is no more sure way of opening up prosperity and making money circulate than by the development of land and homes.

Now, I just had an example of that in the Old Country. It was nine years since I last visited the Old Country and I couldn't describe to you the change that has come over the Old Country in that time in the matter of housing and I certainly can't describe what is going on at the present time. I travelled from London to Lancashire, through Manchester, and from London to York, and from London south in two directions and the whole road seemed to be one continuous succession of new houses going up--houses for artisans and workers, chiefly, and also in the great cities, great blocks of flats.

It is generally considered in the Old Country that there is no phase of industry which puts so much money into circulation among so many different classes as does the 'construction of houses and I believe that the same applies to the settlement of land. I do not think that we in this country, want additional houses in our big cities, but surely we do require more houses on the land and more land developed. That, I believe, will be a means of putting money into circulation and so assisting to start again prosperity. If we ought to have immigration, I should like to see British immigration. (Applause.) I will deal with that in a moment. Let me say something further about the general question of development.

There are so many people, particularly farmers in the West, who, I know, are adverse to any immigration at the present time because they say there is over production and it would merely result in a further growth of agricultural production. But I doubt if that is true; I doubt if there is any over production at the present time and if we take the figures in the Canadian Year Book, there certainly is no over production. That book has just been published and it gives the figures of the wheat production of forty-nine countries of the world-all the main wheat producers, with the exception of Russia and China and we can rule them out. China doesn't produce much and Russia doesn't produce enough to feed her own people. For those forty-nine countries, it gives the production for this year and I believe it is three thousand and sixty-seven millions of bushels-something like that. But, in any case, that is slightly less than the average of the preceding five years and I think that disposes of the question that there is over production of wheat at the present time.

While I was in England I saw some very interesting figures in the form of a letter from the President of the London Corn Exchange in which he showed that this growth of wheat supply is caused very largely by under consumption in Europe and gave a great many figures to illustrate that. I am not going to quote the figures now but he showed very clearly an enormous underconsumption throughout Europe and this is due, mainly, to the unemployment. People are eating less bread because they are unemployed and also because of the fact that they have not money to buy it. I also read a few amazing illustrations of what is going on in that respect in Germany. I forget how many millions of unemployed there are but it stated that men at work are accustomed to carry four good slices of bread every day to their work. Now, the unemployed are taking their midday meal at home and eat potatoes. That came from an authoritative source and a calculation was also made as to the amount of flour underconsumed in respect to that one item alone. I am convinced in my mind that we have underconsumption of important agricultural products all over the world and that it is due to unemployment and low wages and that is caused to a very great extent by the curtailment of development and also, likely, of land production.

On these grounds, I advocate, not immediate immigration to this country, but that we should prepare for it. We should prepare by developing land and building houses.

I should like to deal now for a few moments with this question of British immigration. I live in Alberta. When I bought my land there, about twenty years ago, there was no other developed land around it and naturally, I expected that all that land would in time be developed by British farmers and now I find the majority of land around has been taker, up by foreigners--Central Europeans, chiefly. And I assure you, when I go off my farm to visit my neighbours I am bound to talk in Russian as much as in English and even more. That is my own personal experience. And if we take government figures, in 1930 a Royal Commission on Colonization and Immigration was appointed by Dr. Anderson and the report was issued in the autumn of that year and it stated that there was then in Saskatchewan twice as many immigrant residents of non British birth as of British birth and the situation has grown since that time, slightly more in favour of those not of British birth. The Dominion statistics show., in the past ten years, six hundred thousand immigrants of foreign birth have entered Canada and the majority of those have settled themselves in the prairie provinces and that was against something over four hundred thousand immigrants of British birth. Living as I do, in the West, I have no hesitation in saying that if some definite steps are not taken before long to remedy the situation, the already fast disappearing British character of the Canadian West will entirely disappear.

On those grounds, therefore, I recommend that we should set before ourselves the ideal, again, of British immigration and that we should take steps now to prepare for it. I believe we are living at a time when too much attention and too much thought is given to mere economic prosperity. But Canada has a higher destiny before her. What is it if we merely build up Canada into a good trading nation- a good and prosperous trading nation--what is that? Her destiny is to be a British nation--a unit of the British Empire and she must have a solid foundation of British families. (Applause.)

Now, I would like to go into details of my own plan for settling British families on the land because you all know that one of the greatest difficulties everyone engaged in colonization has had to contend with is how to settle satisfactorily the new countries. The proper selection of the new comers is one of greatest importance. It is really more than half the battle and up to the present agents from this country have done the greatest part of the selection. I maintain they are not the proper people really to do it. After all, they can. only judge superficially. If a man comes before them they can make enquiries but they can not go very deep, in the nature of things. The proper people to do the selecting are the people among wham they live--the people who know their character; it is on their character that they will succeed or fail in this country.

My view is that we ought to establish for every county and town in the Old Country its own community, settled for its own people out here--as it were a training ground through which they can pass the settlers year after year. My idea of the size of the unit is about one hundred farms. That is to accommodate one hundred families. If we assume that it would take four or five years thoroughly to train a family in Canadian farm methods in order that they may prove that they can make good in this country; and each settlement is capable of turning out twenty-five families a year, roughly, and therefore would be capable of taking in from the Old Country another twenty-five families every year, each one of the community settlements we establish would be capable of taking in automatically and continually, year after year, twenty-five well selected families from the United Kingdom. They, therefore, have in the United Kingdom the basis of this organization. Under the Empire Settlement Act, towns and cities set up their own migration committees, very closely allied with municipal and town and county authorities. The idea is that they should take up the matter of forming these settlements, that they should acquire their land and develop it with the assistance of experts engaged in this country and they should bring out their settlers and after they have spent a period of four or five years on the settlement they should encourage them to hive off, so as to speak, or to leave the settlement with such savings as they have made in that time. I hope to be able to show you that they ought to take savings and they would also be assisted by a loan of about a thousand dollars from the British government. I think you will agree that with four or five years farming experience in Canada behind him and with fifteen hundred or two thousand dollars in his pocket a man ought to make a good start in this country.

Experience has shown us that supervision is very necessary in order to enable settlers to get over their first few years in this country and for that purpose we should desire that these settlements or farms should be closely grouped,, only with the idea of facilitating supervision. You will understand that it means a very much larger staff of supervisors if the farms are widely scattered For that reason, we recommend that they should be grouped sufficiently close together to enable the supervisors to be close to them for that period of four of five years.

I may say that many of the Old Country counties and towns are quite taken with the idea. They have long felt the need of a freer hand in settlement matters. They want to take Empire settlement, as far as possible, out of the hands of the Government and to run it themselves, selecting their own people without any interference from the government and they are quite willing to be responsible for them on this side. That is to say, they are willing to send back to the Old Country any family that has not made good.

As you know, new British settlers acquire their Canadian domicile at the end of five years and if they become public charges within that time, they are liable to deportation. The committees in the Old Country are, I believe, quite willing to assume that responsibility of sending back to the Old Country, at their own expense any families that do not make good on these new settlements within a period of five years.

I should like to say something now on the question of finance. A large amount of money is available in the Old Country every year for overseas settlement. The Empire Settlement Act of 1922 provided three million pounds every year for Empire settlement and it has not been possible to spend more than one sixth of that amount every year, for lack of a sufficiently good scheme for settling the immigrants overseas. There were restrictions in the 1922 Act but these restrictions are about to be removed. The chief restriction was that it placed upon the Dominion concerned, the responsibility of finding, dollar for dollar, what the Old Country put down. That has not worked in practice, for many reasons which I need not go into now. The Old Country has taken steps to remove that restriction by the introduction of a Bill into parliament which passed its second reading last year and, I believe, is to be brought up in the next session and all my friends tell me, will become law during the present year. That makes available at once very large sums to be spent freely on overseas settlement. Canada's share of that will, of course, be a considerable one, provided we can, in the meantime, put forward a sound scheme of settlement and prove to the Old Country authorities that it is one under which the new settlers-the British-ought to make good.

I have just returned from a visit of two months to the Old Country. I undertook that visit on the insistence of my friends and associates, in order to represent to the people in the Old Country, first of all, that we, in Canada, are deeply concerned about the continuous falling off in British immigration into this country which has persisted now for a great many years. I was to represent that we desired to maintain and to strengthen the strongest and most desirable warm ties that unite us to Great Britain; that is to say, the tie of kinship, and we believe that can best be maintained by ensuring a constant flow of well-selected British families into this country year after year.

I may say that I met with a very excellent reception from the Parliamentary Migration Committee, particularly, and I may say there is now in the House of Commons a very strong group, determined to make overseas settlement within, the Empire a reality.

I also went out into the Provinces. I visited Yorkshire, first of all. Yorkshire is very highly organized from the point of view of migration committees. It has one central committee, meeting in York and, I think, about twenty other committees distributed over Yorkshire. We held a meeting at which all the committees from Northumberland down were represented. After I made a short address, we threshed out the whole question, and I undertook to answer any questions on the subject. They were anxious that I should give them some further details on the financial side, and on my return, I may say the request was renewed. Whenever I held a meeting, on my return to London I put in the form of a memorandum the financial proposals of my scheme. Those proposals were commented on by the press all over England, although the press was not entirely agreed because I put the whole of the expenditure on the Old Country, yet on the whole, they were favourably received from this point of view: that they furnished an opportunity for a full discussion of this question and an examination of it in every detail. I am sure that there will be, in the Old Land, very powerful support for this scheme. I will not say that everyone agrees ire detail with it, but on the whole, there is very powerful support. I have received letters every day since my return to Canada, assuring me that the scheme will be well supported.

Now, Gentlemen, I am endeavouring to make this scheme more generally known throughout Canada than it is known at present. I am also taking preliminary steps to establish some of the settlements I have outlined to you in the east of Canada. I find here that my scheme is very well received. The Government of Ontario is strongly in sympathy with it and I have no doubt we shall be able,, with the consent and the co-operation of the cities and towns of the districts where we wish to establish these settlements, during the next six months to lay the foundations of this scheme which I have been trying to outline to you today.

I feel, Sir, that I have gone as far as I can in the outline of the scheme and I should like to answer any questions. (Applause.)

MAJOR BAXTER: Are there any questions? Or shall I place the motion of thanks in the hands of Mr. Burton? He has, no doubt, formulated many of the questions and with you indulgence, I shall ask Mr. Burton to speak.

MR. C. L. BURTON: Mr. President and Fellow Members of The Empire Club: I suppose that I shall have to observe a great deal more discretion in my remarks than a visiting speaker will, because so many of my intimate friends are here before me and I shall be pretty well pinned down if I bring forth any views subject to question.

This is rather an innovation for which your own officers are entirely responsible--that a member of the Club should be given ten minutes in order to propose the vote of thanks on behalf of the meeting to the guest speaker of the day. I can only judge that the President knows that I can say nothing in a few words.

I have been accorded the honour of tendering your thanks to General Hornby who has given us such a straightforward talk on a subject which is more or less put under the table by most Canadians and most Canadian authorities today and which I am sure, after hearing his story, you will all agree should be brought up on the table and examined in detail and appraised for what it holds for the future benefit of Canada and of British settlement in Canada.

General Hornby, as the President has stated, has already performed a very distinguished service for the Empire. I understand that very few can say that they have to their credit the distinguished war record which he has. (Applause.)

General Hornby might very well have left his farm at Lethbridge to the foreigners there and retired to the beautiful Windermere Valley in British Columbia and, as so many of us would be inclined to do, to rest his oars on the great Columbia River and to spend his time developing whatever he cared to do in a private capacity. Instead of doing this, he has chosen to give himself to a great public service. Canada is much in his debt.

While I say this, I must say further, as a Canadian citizen, I find it difficult to subscribe to his view that Britain should pay the shot in respect to those proposing to settle in this country. I am not in a position to endorse or to counter the proposals of our guest of today.

In the few minutes alloted to me, I wish to extend to General Hornby our hearty thanks for his message and to include in it some observations which I hope will be considered apropos.

In thinking of the question of settlement and then of British settlement, one is faced immediately with the great problem which we are facing of our own unemployed. One is conscious of our unemployment situation and I doubt if there is any general feeling today that we are in a position to encourage further immigration at the moment, even from Great Britain. We are faced with the problem of unemployment and of providing for those of our unemployed who are not in .a position; to look after themselves. So long as this condition is present,, I doubt if we can entertain the bringing into Canada of those who may be available for settlement here, who under one government or another may be brought to settle in this country.

This present emergency which faces us, however, presents no reason in itself for us not preparing for a day which we shall hope will not be far distant when the problem of the settlement of our vacant land by immigration from Great Britain will become again a foremost question. Personally, I think that any plan to settle our British kith and kin in Canada should receive our sympathetic attention. I am the fourth generation on one side of my family of Scotch settlers in the Province of Ontario. I am the third generation of London, English, who settled in Scarboro Township, just twelve miles from this city. I am sure that most everyone in this room has some such background, perhaps a background not so far away from Old Country connections as my own.

I have been asked here today to suggest some action that we in Canada might take which would have, perhaps, a very salutary effect in helping to solve our unemployment and which might prove to be the forerunner of a new movement to add to our Canadian population by immigration. Notwithstanding the reported increases in employed people in Canada, it is probable that we have in the neighbourhood of nine hundred thousand unemployed people today. One estimate I have is that the single unemployed total two hundred and sixty-five thousand and that the married unemployed total, five hundred and twenty-five thousand, and the women unemployed, one hundred thousand-nearly nine hundred thousand. If our totals are only half these estimates, the accuracy of which T can not guarantee--nor do I understand that anyone is able properly to estimate in Canada today the exact number of unemployed--but this estimate has been a deduction made by the employment figures rather than actual statistics, particularly of those unemployed. Then, if this aggregate must be cut in two, we can see we have a problem of very serious proportions presenting itself to us before we can consider the putting into effect of a new plan for a new stream of immigration. I have been thinking, especially, of the single unemployed. We had a demonstration here yesterday at noon of what some of the outcroppings of this problem are. Naturally, the single unemployed men are largely constituted of our younger men and I can think of no more serious situation than that of our single unemployed men-they are the ones who twenty-five and fifty years from now x will carry the burden of this country.

I have time only to suggest a course which might be followed in respect to single young men. I am thinking ire this connection of our great heritage in Northern and Northwestern Ontario. It is said that we have twenty millions of acres of arable land in northern and northwestern Ontario. Settlement in these areas has been at all times difficult. Scattered settlements are the rule and it is well known that scattered settlements generally mean impoverished settlers. One needs only to travel along the railways and highways of northern Ontario and the Rainy River District to realize that our settlement plans have been not only inadequate but what one might describe as celebrated by their absence--notorious because of their absence. Abandoned farms are common and where settlers have stuck it out" there has been a low standard of living, few social amenities, loneliness, isolation and general lack of progress, absence of reasonable educational facilities and medical services and every of church accommodation, danger from bush fires, from frost and floods and even from wild beasts.

Of the fifteen thousand farms in Algoma, Cochrane, Nipissing and Rainy River District and other northern or northwestern areas, seven thousand of these are from five to twenty-five miles from the nearest railway station or road. Many settlers are isolated here and there is in over a thousand square miles of otherwise promising territory, only one experimental farm in the whole area--the Dominion Government farm at Kapuskasing, not jar from Cochrane. There is no Experimental Farm, either Dominion or Provincial, aside from this in the Rainy River area. The problems of the scattered settler are legion and under present circumstances, practically impossible of solution.

I have only time today to suggest that the twenty million acres of northern Ontario and the Rainy River area are capable of absorbing our single unemployed. This area is fertile-they grow potatoes as big as your boot and turnips as big as your head. Thousands of tons of hay and other farm produce can be produced in this area. Sustenance might be the first objective-sustenance for thousands now despairing of jobs and who are on public relief. This area has wood, easily cleared, and fuel in abundance and marketable pulpwood-I hope it is marketable; if it isn't now, it will be.

I have in mind, and this, I may say, is a more or less personal dream if you like, T have in mind art incorporated commission" founded by private funds-perhaps a very large foundation, and endowed by government funds, dollar for dollar with private funds. This Commission would have power to open; township after township in this great empire of the north.

I believe that such a body could settle about twentyfive thousand unemployed single men, the first year. The plan would involve small acreage for the individuals, road building, community boarding and bunk houses, supervised by young engineers and young agricultural college graduates and managed by a capable body of public spirited citizens who ought to be willing to give service for nothing. Our University has in the last four years graduated sixty young civil engineers, many of whom are not properly employed. Our Agricultural College has graduated young farmers in the last two or three years who could be harnessed to the settlement scheme.

Time does not permit me to develop the idea at this meeting. If we want to encourage immigration, we must first solve the problem of our own unemployment. I believe that we could absorb hundreds of thousands in our own territory and pave the way for a scheme of immigration and I would like to inject the thought that immigration is not a matter for the Federal Government, except to lay down in most general terms the conditions which should apply to everyone who comes to these shores. There is no reason why the Federal Government should spend five cents on an immigration department. Let them lay down the laws governing immigration in the same way as they lay down the laws governing crime, and let the provinces take care of their own burden of administering the law. At the present time there is the greatest danger of political chicanery between the provinces and the dominion when it comes to a matter of policy on immigration. It is time we got rid of that; it is a provincial question" a provincial problem, and it should be for provincial administration.

I am going to take but a moment more. I want to picture in a few words what I think a township community settlement should generally involve. I have a thought of a model plan. Here lies, let us say, a township of tested good land. There are hundreds of thousands of such townships in Northern Ontario. Let us suppose we shall plan roads of communication at right angles, parallel to existing roads or railways, with a young settler on each fifteen or twenty acres. Say that we have twenty-five hundred young settlers to each township. The settlers' objective would be first to cut enough wood to keep themselves and others warm, to clear enough land to grow food for his own sustenance and the keep of those in his community. For each man on land, I' think that four others should be used for road building and drainage and general development of the community. Each five square miles of land would have its bunk and moving house, its movie, church and recreational centres.

I think of the job as a constructor would think of it. The first job would be to build a bunk house, a boarding house, a hospital, recreational facilities and other social amenities would be provided. Within five years, I hope, two hundred arid fifty thousand would be required for the work. The land would be cleared and production planned. For the employment of the leisure hours there would be literary societies and sports organizations. Within five years homes would be established and family life introduced and then British immigrants would be introduced. I feel certain, in my own mind, Mr. President, we could make very great progress along some such line as this. For instance, take a settlement of twenty-five hundred or three thousand young Canadians in, that vigorous north country. They could have the finest musical organization in Canada developed up there. I would have the best amateur sports organization and they would go right across this country and lick anything their size and kind, and I would make that community a bright and shining light-the greatest advertisement Canada has ever had. (Applause.)

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British Settlement in Canada

The speaker's plan for dealing with new settlers from the British Isles. Response to the questions "Do we need any immigration at all at the present time and why is it necessary to talk about it?" Reasons why the speaker believes that we do need immigration, with illustrative examples. Why the immigration should be British immigration. The general question of development. Response to people who are adverse to any immigration at the present time, and their reasons for that adversity. The speaker's advocation of not immediate immigration, but of the preparation for immigration by developing land and building houses. The question of British immigration and why the speaker recommends that we should set before ourselves the ideal of British immigration, and prepare for it. Canada's higher destiny. Details of the speaker's plan for settling British families on the land. Proper selection of the new comers. Who should make the selection. Specific suggestions and recommendations as to how a British immigration should be handled. The question of finance. Maintaining the tie of kinship. Excellent reception from the Parliamentary Migration Committee in Britain. Endeavouring to make this scheme more known throughout Canada. Taking preliminary steps to establish some of the settlements as outlined in the east of Canada.