27 November

British Settlers en route to Battleford, c. 1903

Sifton Plans World-Wide Immigration Campaign

I hear the thread of pioneers

    Of nations yet to be,

the first low wash of waves

    where soon

Shall roll a human sea.

        -John G. Whittier, 1846

Among the great promoters in Canadian public life was Sir Clifford Sifton who was made Minister of the Interior in the Laurier government on November 17, 1896.

Sir Clifford liked to get things done in a hurry, and by November 27, 1896, he was already making plans for the biggest immigration drive in Canadian history. First he compelled the railways to choose the millions of acres of land that had been allocated to them SC) that he would know what land could be made available to new settlers. Then he streamlined the process of land grants and put sub-agents in every district to cut red tape.

Those steps were the beginning of an almost world-wide campaign to bring new settlers to Canada, mostly from the United States and Britain. Thousands of pamphlets were sent out offering free land in western Canada. There were advertisements in 7,000 agricultural publications in the States alone. Editors of British and American papers were taken on tours of Canada. Agents were appointed in foreign lands and received $5 for every head of family sent to Canada, plus $2 for every member of the family.

There were results within the first year. In 1897, 32,000 settlers came to Canada, almost double the number who came in 1896. By 1911, when the Laurier government was defeated, more than 2,000,000 new citizens had come to Canada bringing the population to 7,206,643. If World War I had not broken out in 1914, the trend would have continued.

There were problems, of course. Many of the new settlers came from cities and were not suited for farming. One group from Britain had been advised to bring oxen which would provide milk as well as be used for ploughing!

Sifton, who has been described as a man of "chilled steel and flawless, machinelike competence," did not see the campaign through until 1911. When Prime Minister Laurier agreed to allow separate schools in Alberta and Saskatchewan when they became provinces in 1905, Sifton resigned from the cabinet. In 191 1, he disagreed with Laurier's reciprocity deal with the United States and led a revolt within the Liberal party (see January 21).


27 November

-1618    Marc Lescarbot was given permission to publish his History of New France (see May 11) .

-1783    The shipping service was restored between Halifax and New York.

-1899    John McLeod of the Hudson's Bay Company began his journey through the Rockies and descended the Fraser River to the Strait of Georgia.

-1829    The final section of the Welland Canal was opened.

-1854    The Grand Trunk Railway was completed from Richmond to LÚvis, Quebec.

-1885    Eight Indians were hanged at Regina for murders in the Northwest Rebellion.