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.
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
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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