A Scattering of Seeds: The Creation of Canada
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General History


The connection between Canada and England has been a strong and continuous one for over 500 years. Canada was a colony of the British Empire, and the influence of this strong relationship affected the makeup of the new country. The main thrust of English emigration prior to the American Revolution came from the 13 colonies, which would later become the United States. After the Revolution, Loyalists made their way north to Canada.
As immigrants, they had many privileges and did not face meny of the barriers which other immigrant groups would later encounter. They were given land grants by the British Government; they spoke the language of the British administration. But they did have to leave all their belongings behind and start life anew; they were faced with the back-breaking work of clearing the wilderness to make it provide for them; and they suffered from isolation and a lack of many of the amenities of life they knew of before their trek into Canada.

During the 1800's, Britain was in the midst of an economic revolution which changed every aspect of British life. Britain became industrialized. The Industrial Revolution brought an end to cottage industries and the feudal system which had before this defined the British economy. Peasants moved into the cities, working under horrendous conditions, living in squalor among rats, garbage and human waste. The strong confines of the English class system made escaping from this mind-numbing poverty virtually impossible.

The new colonies did offer an escape for the lower class. At first, the British Government found the emigration of such a large number of her citizens an insult. In 1824, wary of the French Revolution, aware of high unemployment and the discontent of the English working man, the British Government passed a bill which actively encouraged the emigration of the unemployed lower classes, while also opening the door for artisans to leave.(11)

The British Government gave land grants to these settlers, but in order to be able to keep the property they had to clear a large percentage of it and build a homestead. For many of these Englishmen, this was an almost impossible task. These were urban factory workers who were transported to Canada's wilderness, with only the most rudimentary knowledge of what was involved, and the hardship which had to be endured.

Through the mid-1800's, the children of despair from the streets of the industrial cities such as Liverpool, Manchester and Leeds were sent to Canada to serve as domestics. Some of the children went from brutal situations in England to virtual slavery in Canada. But for others, the escape from the ghettos that made up much of industrial England, was the best thing that could have ever happened for them.(12

With the opening of Canada's West, the largest migration occurred. Immigration Minister Sir Clifford Sifton made it clear that English immigrants were some of the most desirable. After setting up an office to promote Canada's West in London, England, tens of thousands of immigrants soon arrived here, many of them setting up homesteads in Alberta.

They were ill-prepared for the harsh winters, poor education systems and lack of health care. It was these conditions that Irene Parlby was trying to change. She felt that like a seed, once settlers were nourished and could take root, they would flourish. And she obviously felt it was her job to help make sure this happened.

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