The Pacific Coast


Difficult Beginnings
Golden Age
Canada in WW1
Canada in WW2

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, like Ukrainians.

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 but 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 basis. Laurier was aware that imperialism was a dangerous subject in Quebec.




With the US, 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.