O Canada


Canada: Geography


Harold Innis, The Fur Trade in Canada, University of Toronto Press, Toronto, 2e ed., 1956 [1930], 463 p.


383 Fundamentally, the civilization of North America is the civilization of Europe [...]. communication and transportation facilities have always persisted since the settlement of North America by Europeans, and have been subject to constant improvement.

Peoples who have been accustomed to the cultural traits of their civilization [...] find it difficult to work out new cultural traits suitable to a new environment. [...] The survivors live through borrowing cultural traits of peoples who have already worked out a civilization suitable to the new environment, and through heavy heavy material borrowing from the peoples of the old land. The process of adaptation is extremely painful in any case but the maintenance of cultural traits to which they have been accustomed is of primary importance.

[...] The methods by which the cultural traits of a civilization any persist with the least possible depreciation involve an appreciable dependence on the peoples of the homeland. The migrant is not in a position immediately to supply all his needs [...].

384 The migrant was consequently in search of goods which could be carried over long distances by small and expensive sailboats and which were in such demand in the home country as to yield the largest profit.

384 The importance of metropolitan centres in which luxury goods were most in demand was crucial to the development of colonial North America. In these centres goods were manufactured for the consumption of colonials and in these centres goods produced in the colonies were sold at the highest price.

385 CD remained British in spite of free trade and chiefly because she continued as an exporter of staples to a progressively industrialized mother country.

391 The continent of North America became divided into three areas: (1) to the north in what is now the Dominion of CD, producing furs, (2) to the south in what were during the Civil War the secession states, producing cotton, and (3) in the centre the widely diversified economic territory [...]. The staple producing areas were closely dependent on industrial Europe, especially Great Britain. The fur-producing area was destined to remain British. The cotton-producing area was forced after the Civil War to become subordinate to the central territory  just as the fur-producing area, at present producing the staples, wheat, pulp and paper, minerals, and lumber, tends to be brought under its influence.

392 The Northwest Company and its successors the Hudsonís Bay Company established a centralized organization which covered the northern half of North America from the Atlantic to the Pacific. [...] It is no mere accident that the present Dominion coincides roughly with the fur-trading areas of northern North America. The bases of supplies for the trade in Quebec, in western Ontario, and in British Columbia represent the agricultural areas of the present Dominion. The Northeast Company was the forerunner of the present Confederation.

393 Canada emerged as a political entity with boundaries largely determined by the fur trade. These boundaries included a vast north temperate land extending from the Atlantic to the pacific and dominated by the Canadian Shield. The present Dominion emerged not in spite of geography but because of it.