A Scattering of Seeds: The Creation of Canada
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General History


The Edwards came to Alberta in 1910, attracted by the prospects of owning their own land and escaping the poverty and prejudice that held them back in their native country. They imagined a vast territory with acres of fruit trees and crops, but what they found was a barren land. With no farming experience they had to clear the land around their homestead in Cold Lake, Alberta; build a house and plant the crops all on their own. For these early settlers there was no government support, they had to make it on their own. The only support homesteaders could expect came from their own family. Even neighbours didn't automatically pitch in. One of J.D. Edwards' sons said "Our neighbours made us work for their friendship. Fortunately, they made it easy for us."

Many who came to Canada were broken by the pioneer hardships. Twenty years after the Richards came to Canada, the stock market crashed; world prices fell, including the price of wheat. Many of the homesteaders who had fought to establish themselves over the past decades found their crops and land worthless. The financial devastation combined with dust storms and plagues of locusts.

Though the Edwards family earned the respect of their neighbours, living amongst white people had generally been difficult for early black settlers. Prejudice had been deeply rooted in Europe and in the United States where the first blacks were brought as slaves. Though slavery was mostly situated in the southern United States, there were already about 1100 Black slaves in New France by 1759. Despite the fact that loyal United Empire Loyalists were themselves free blacks, white Loyalists arrived in Canada with 2000 slaves. And while it was the town of York, known now as Toronto that led the world in abolishing slavery in 1834, it still existed in the U.S. Many desperate and escaped slaves fled to Canada via a secret route called the Underground Railroad.

Once here, many white immigrants considered blacks backward. Though there are many examples of blacks undertaking entrepreneurial enterprises, particularly in Toronto, generally only the most menial jobs were open to them. Most lived in areas isolated from whites. They were refused admittance to white churches, hotels, restaurants, theatres, and swimming pools. They received poor education, often in segregated schools. And even at the time of the First World War, black servicemen were forced to serve in segregated units.

Today, blacks have entered all levels of Canadian society, and as a whole, have a higher level of education than whites.

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