(CANADA, 1851 to 1900 – continued)

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CANADA, 1851 to 1900 (7 of 7)

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Economy, Class and Population increases, 1881-1900

In 1880 the population of Canada increased to more than 4.25 million, compared to 50.19 million for its southern neighbor, the United States.

The global economic depression that had begun in 1873 severely curtailed immigration to Canada. The demand for Canadian resources had slumped, and protectionist policies in the United States and Europe hurt Canadian trade. For ten years after 1881, Canada's population grew by less than 25 percent. In the decade of the 1880s, despite their much smaller number, more Canadians went to the United States than people from the US went to Canada. French speakers were seeing greater opportunity in the United States. Between 1840 and 1900 almost 615,000 French-speaking persons from Quebec migrated to the US – primarily to New England.

The migration picture for Canada changed in the 1890s. Between 1890 and 1910, Canada's population would increase by almost 70 percent – some of that increase the result of the Klondike gold rush of 1898. Much of Canada's growth in population was in the West. In 1891 fewer than 100,000 people lived between Manitoba and British Columbia. Twenty-five-years later there were more than one million. The Dominion Lands Act provided incentive to enter Canada's West. Under that Act,160 acres of land was available to immigrants for nothing more than a $10 registration fee and a promise to reside on the land for three years.

The homesteaders had tough conditions to endure. There was lots of snow and very low temperatures. They had to adapt quickly and learn skills necessary to run a farm efficiently. Normally they lived far from neighbors and to survive had to be totally self-sufficient.

In addition to agriculture there was Canada's traditional timber industry: selling timber to Europeans who had cut down most of their own timber. And mining minerals continued as a part of Canada's economy.

Canada's banking system by1886 included 38 chartered banks. And there were insurance companies and investment markets: the Montreal Stock Exchange from 1832 and the Toronto Stock Exchange since 1861.

The conflict between labor and capitalists was not as intense in the late 1800s as the so-called gilded age in the United States, but there was a labor movement. Workers had organized to defend and advance their welfare. Labor organizations from various cities banded together in 1886 and formed the Trades and Labour Congress of Canada. It lobbied government to secure wage and protective legislation, workmen's compensation, sanitary regulation of workshops and the eight-hour day. Also it called for free and compulsory education.

Toronto unionists called for female factory inspectors to protect women workers, and they called for an end to child labor and the use of convict labor. They denounced government supported immigration and the Salvation Army for its efforts to move London's poor to Canada, and they opposed Asian immigration.

British Columbia received most of the Asian newcomers. By the turn of the century 11 percent of British Columbia's population was Asian. An Asiatic Exclusion League had been founded by people concerned that immigrants would take their jobs, lower their wages and not integrate culturally. There was occasional violence, such as an anti-Chinese riot in Calgary on August 2, 1892.

Chinese had come to work on the most dangerous sections of Canada's transcontinental railway. No longer needed following this work, the government discouraged Chinese immigration by creating a head tax to be paid by any Chinese wanting to immigrate.

Japanese migrants, mainly from Hawaii, came to work as fishermen or lumbermen along the Pacific coast of British Columbia, and they too arroused fear and animosity. The Vancouver Trades and Labour Council demanded measures to curtail such immigration.

In the early 1900s, conflicts between labor and management were to escalate, with major strikes in the railway industry. Canada, meanwhile, continued with what has been described as racial and economic distinctions between wealthy and common working people.

Copyright © 2015 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.