A Scattering of Seeds: The Creation of Canada
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General History


In the 19th century, the English who came to Canada directly were often pulled by economic reasons. It was a time when many working people were unemployed and struggling for survival in England.(1) T. Phillips Thompson had watched his father, a grocer, twice go bankrupt in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne. Thompson was 14 when he left England's industrial north with his Quaker parents. They started over in Lindsay, Ontario, near Toronto.

By 1819, half of the British subjects who sailed for British North America were English from the British Isles. Many of these immigrants were officially encouraged or given some means of assistance. England was the imperial centre, the 'old country' by definition, and up until 1867, many of the English came in official capacities as public servants and soldiers. When they were released from service many chose to remain in the country. Almost all the officials in British Columbia when the province entered Confederation in 1871, were English or Anglo-Irish.(2)

Migration had begun in the Atlantic colonies with the foundation of Halifax in 1749. Two-thirds of its early population of 3,000 were Englishmen, there as a counterforce to the French at Louisbourg. When Louisbourg was captured in 1758 and Quebec in 1759, and with the Treaty of Paris in 1763, New France became another British colony. In the 1760s, New England farmers of English descent settled around the Bay of Fundy on former Acadian lands. In the early 1770s, a group of Yorkshiremen put down roots in northern Nova Scotia.(3)

At the end of the American War of Independence, a flood of Loyalists moved northward. While politically motivated, these immigrants from colonies in the United States received special status and land grants in return for their loyalty to the British Crown. The majority settled in what became the province of New Brunswick. Some English-Americans immigrated to what became Upper Canada in 1791. Later still, a small number of Loyalists went to the prairies for farming opportunities, attracted by offers of free land.(4)

By 1851 the first wave of English immigration had waned. There were four substantial waves of English immigration still to come. Following Confederation, orphans came from private homes as well as industrial schools and poor-law schools. Granted free passage, thousand of British children, most of them English, were settled across Canada as wards of various societies between 1867 and the 1920s.(5)

Another influx of English settlers, lured by the opening of the Prairie provinces, arrived in Canada between 1890 and 1914. In 1901 they numbered less than 10,000, but in 1906, three years after an immigration office was set up in central London, 65,000 immigrants arrived in Canada. In 1913 the number peaked at 113,004. The British government, under the Empire Settlement Act of 1922, helped 130,000 British immigrants settle in Canada after WWI. After WWII, in 1947, over 7,000 English, many of them trained industrial workers, artisans and technicians, immigrated to Canada. In 1957 the number rose to 75,546; in 1967 to 43,000.(6)

The Canadian & World Encyclopedia
(McClelland & Stewart, Toronto, 1998).

The Canadians, by George Woodcock
(Fitzhenry & Whiteside, Don Mills, 1989).

A source Book of Canadian History, ed. J.H. Stewart Read
(Longmans Canada Limited, Toronto, 1964).

The Future Government of Canada, by T. Phillips Thompson, 1864

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