2. The Golden Age
of Canada, from the 1890s to WW1
The fortune of
Canada changed in the mid-1890s when the economy finally picked up.
This was due to a massive
arrival of immigrants, due to the fact that there was almost no
free land left in the US, and to the aggressive recruiting policy in Eastern Europe to attract farmers
used to the same climatic conditions as the Canadian prairies,
Between 1867 and 1895, 1.3 million immigrants
arrived in Canada but 1 million left for the US.
From the mid 1890s to WWI, 2,5 million immigrants came and stayed. Immigrants
were also attracted by
industrial jobs, the railways and the mining frontier: 100,000 workers were required to lay
tracks. Immigration was based on an open door policy towards Europe
barriers were erected against the Far East (China), especially when the Canadian Pacific Railway
was concluded in 1903.
As in the US, the 1890s in
Canada was the age of reform, led by professional men
and women, often members of Protestant churches like the
Methodists, who reacted to growing urban and ethnic
slums. The temperance movement was strong, and argued
that alcohol should be banned because it was a major
cause of poverty, domestic violence and had a corrupting
influence on politics). Reform also included a movement
for the protection of children, lobbying for compulsory
school attendance, and the movement for female equality
that demanded the vote for women, either on the ground
of the natural rights of human beings, or arguing that
the greater virtue of females would have a purifying
influence on politics.
The relation with
Britain was changing. Canada was more and more appreciated by
Britain, which was passing from "little Englandism" to imperialism.
The rise to power of Germany
and the US made Canada a useful ally in British eyes. Loyalty in Canada
was strong - 2/3 of the population was of British origin and the link
was very alive. Canada's flag remained the Union Jack and the
country was still part of the British Empire.
Many Canadians were supporters of imperial unity, and even of an imperial federation. Loyalty led
to the Canadian intervention in the Boer War. Prime Minister Laurier,
while declaring himself to be an admirer of
the genius and generosity of the British empire, was reluctant to
participate in the Boer War because of the strong opposition in Quebec,
led by Henri Bourassa. In the end Canada participated only on a volunteer
was aware that imperialism was a dangerous subject in Quebec.
the relationship slowly evolved from the historical hostility and mistrust.
Several crises, like the Fenian raids and the conflict over Venezuela,
comforted the Canadian feeling that the US had not yet accepted Canada’s
independent existence in America. In the dispute over the Yukon-Alaska border
in 1903, Canadians resented the fact that Britain sided with the US.
In Canada, there was a wide-spread anti-American feeling, a
scorn for a society perceived as violent and lawless. But
in fact, there were many links between the two countries, with
American immigrants to Canada and Canadian immigrants to the US,
and many social organizations were transnational, like temperance
societies and trade
unions. In 1911, the Liberal Party and Prime Minister Laurier
decided to revive the 1891 free trade project. Once more, the
Conservative campaign exploited the latent anti-Americanism of
Canadians and their fear of being absorbed by their powerful
neighbor, a fear exacerbated by remarks made by US senators
that free trade was the first step towards a political union of
Canada and the US. The Liberals lost the lections and Sir Henry
Borden became the new Conservative Prime Minister of Canada.