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Labour Studies

Fall 13 Jacqueline Chan1A03 – Essay Assignment “Immigrant workers played a key role in the boom of 1896 to 1914, but they received few of the benefits.” M a r c h 1 2 , 2 0 1 3 Canada is described as a mosaic built by different cultures to form a strong nation instead of a melting pot like the United States. Nowadays, Immigrants from all over the world come to Canada to have a better life through better education and more stable job opportunities. As a whole, Canada‟s economy relies heavily on the immigrants as they provide the labour and money that are required to run a competitive global economy. The contributions made by the immigrants can be tracked back to when the English and French settlers colonized Canada. Compare to other countries that have been colonized, for example India, Canada is considered one of the most successful countries after gaining its independent from the mother country. In order to be a strong and independent country, it is crucial to develop a powerful local economy that can compete globally. The first step to industrialization is agriculture and fortunately, Canada has the resources and laborers to go through the process of commercial agriculture and put the country‟s economy on the right track (Dick & Taylor, n.d.). However, despite the fat that immigrants are vital in the Canadian economy, their efforts and contributions have not been rewarded or appreciated the way they are now (Avery, 1995). Immigration workers played a key role in the economic boom of 1896 to 1914, but they received few of the benefits from the prosperity (Avery, 1995). By 1914, around 3 million immigrants had entered Canada since 1896 (Avery, 1995). The exponential increase in the population definitely pushed the nation‟s economy as the settlers provided both skilled and unskilled labour (Avery, 1995). As the young nation was in the process of gaining its independent from Britain, most of the infant industries were extremely labour intensive. Business sectors had a high demand of workers such as railroads construction, commercial agriculture, mining, lumbering, farming laborers, and domestic workers (Avery, 1995). 2 Among all of the industries, commercial agriculture was one of the largest sectors that needed most of the labor force (Avery, 1995). Both unskilled and skilled laborers were in high demand to become farmers or farm laborers (Avery, 1995). Even though technology was available, they still required heavy labour force to put them in use (Avery, 1995). The sum of money that was spent on hiring the required amount of workers was a heavy burden on the employers. In order to save money, immigrants were often hired for such labor-intensive jobs because they accepted lower wages. Also, employers and immigration officials often assumed that immigrants were the source of cheap labor (Avery, 1995). Therefore, one of the goals from the Canadian immigration policy was to recruit skilled agricultural laborers (Avery, 1995). Farm workers were extremely crucial because they were needed in the seeding and harvesting seasons (Avery, 1995). In fact by 1907, the Immigration Branch took matter into its own hand and began to participate in the recruitment of British agriculture workers (Avery, 1995). Around 100 government officials were appointed to correspond with the British booking agencies (Avery, 1995). Each official was reward with a $200 bonus for placing every farm laborer (Avery, 1995). Even steamship agents were given payments of bonuses when colonization agents bring agricultural immigrant to Canada (Avery, 1995). In essence, the government‟s goal was to attract the ideal „British agriculturalists‟ to immigrate to Canada. The Minister of the Interior from 1896 to 1905, Clifford Sifton, recognized the immigrants‟ contribution to Canada (The University of Canada, 1997). Therefore, he loosened the immigration policies and strongly promoted the West (The University of Canada, 1997). This government strategy to advertise the West was known as “The Last Best West” (The University of Canada, 1997). Vigorous campaigning took place all over United States, Britain, and even Central and Eastern Europe (The University of Canada, 1997). Though British agriculturalists were the flavored immigrants, the high demand of workers led the 3 government to expand their list (The University of Canada, 1997). Therefore, European agriculturalists from Germany, Austro-Hungarian Empire and the Scandinavian countries were also welcomed into the country (The University of Canada, 1997). The campaign stressed the benefits of coming to Canada where immigrant workers had the opportunity to have their own farming business by owning the lands (The University of Canada, 1997). The concept of property rights seemed refreshing and exciting. Even though the wages that Canadian employers were willing to pay were lower than the rates that the workers could have earned in Britain, they believed in the entrepreneurial spirit that “The Last Best West” had (The University of Canada, 1997). Since everyone believed they could own their land, most of the immigrant workers came to Canada to „sell‟ their labor (Avery, 1995). Many of them came to Canada „temporarily‟, hoping that the more favorable job market would allow them to earn more money and would also elevate their social statuses when they return to their home countries (Avery, 1995). The “Last Best West” campaign attracted many Europeans, Americans, and British workers to come to Canada, creating a tide of immigrants (Canada in the Making, n.d.). However, they did not realize the flaws of their dreams until they came to Canada (Canada in the Making, n.d.). Most of them spent their money paying for the trip to come to Canada and expected a greater return (Canada in the Making, n.d.). But little did they know, the West was not as desirable as it was promoted. Reality was that the West was cold and the land was a barren tundra, basically the Canadian dessert (The University of Canada, 1997). The image that Sifton promoted was polished and revised (The University of Canada, 1997). Instead of telling the immigrants that the West was covered with snow in the winter and isolated, he gave them hope by claiming the land was „invigorating‟ and „bracing‟ (The University of Canada, 1997). Not only did the workers bought lands that were unfertile, they were also fooled to believe they could have their own farms once they came to Canada (The University
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