UPWARDS of twenty years ago the late Bishop of Toronto, the Right Reverend Dr. Strachan, recommended that his extensive diocese should be divided into four sees. He lived to see two of these, viz., Huron and Ontario, set apart, and never ceased to urge the appointment of a Missionary Bishop for that part of his diocese lying north of the Great Lakes, now known as the district of Algoma.
The purchase and opening up of the North West Territory for settlement (the route to which lies through Algoma) has rendered this appointment a matter of immediate and imperative necessity, if the Canadian Church intends to discharge her duty to the aboriginal inhabitants of that remote district, and to her members who are settling [693/694] in it. The enterprise having been submitted to the Synods of Montreal, Toronto, Huron, and Ontario, and to the Bishop and clergy of the Diocese of Quebec in visitation assembled, has received their formal sanction.
Until this region has been surveyed, the limits of the proposed Bishopric cannot be accurately defined, but they may be described as commencing at French River on the north-west side of Georgian Bay, and extending along the north shore of Lakes Huron and Superior (including Manitoulin and other islands) to the boundary line between Canada and the United States, a distance of upwards of a thousand miles, and stretching northward to the southern limit of the Diocese of Rupert's Land (supposed to be the height of land dividing Ontario from the late territory of the Hudson Bay Company), embracing an area of nearly 100,000 square miles.
The partial explorations of this region made by the provincial Government have enabled the Lieut.-Governor to report to the Legislature of Ontario, at a late session, "that in it will be found tracts of land well suited for agricultural purposes, interspersed with lakes abounding with fish, and a climate similar to our own, well calculated to invite the immigrant to look for a happy home."
Its mineral productions are known to be exceedingly rich and varied. Silver, copper, lead, iron, and tin have been found in abundance; while timber, fish, and peltry form no inconsiderable items in the productions of that region, and furnish employment to a large and increasing population.
At Bruce mines, on Lake Huron, which have been long worked to advantage, the population is about 1,300, chiefly English miners. At the Saulte St. Marie, an old station, and at Prince Arthur's Landing, on Lake Superior--the terminus of the road to Manitoba--there are considerable settlements of white inhabitants; while at the several Hudson Bay posts, mines, wharves, lumber and fishing establishments, together with the townships in course of settlement, there are numbers of white settlers, their aggregate being not less than 10,000 souls.
The eastern portion of the Pacific Railway passing through this district will ensure a large expenditure in its construction, and attract a tide of immigrants, who, with the settlers already in the district, will immediately require the ministrations of religion. Already there are several lines of steamers employed in transporting settlers and their effects to the west, bringing the territory into notice and rapidly increasing the population.
There are also in it several thousand wandering Indians, most of them in a heathen and very degraded state, who, as they are now about to lose their hunting grounds, have the strongest claims on Christian sympathy. For upwards of forty years the Church has recognised these [694/695] claims and sustained a few faithful Missionaries among them, but the means at her command have been too limited to effect much; now, however, it is hoped, under the supervision of a Missionary Bishop, these poor people will be gathered in settlements, civilised, and brought into the Christian fold.
This whole district, then, presents to the Church, in this province, a noble field for Missionary exertion which it will be a sin and a reproach to neglect.
The success that has attended the exertions of Missionary Bishops in the Western States of America proves the expediency of sending out men of ability and devotion in this capacity--to explore new fields, and urge their wants on the mother Church, and superintend the execution of the work. The want has been long felt in the Algoma district.
The project has commended itself to the patronage of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, who have offered a grant of £1,000 towards the endowment of a Missionary Bishopric for Algoma on condition that £4,000 be raised and invested by the 31st of December, 1875. The Bishop of Toronto promptly accepted the offer on behalf of the Canadian Church, and his action has been since confirmed by the cordial approval and offers of co-operation from all the other dioceses in the province.
It is to be hoped that on the establishment of this Missionary Bishopric it will receive support from the whole Canadian Church, and as a large portion of its future population will certainly flow from the mother country, the Missionary societies and the friends of Missions there may be expected to aid in the effort to extend to the heathen Indians and the destitute white settlers the blessings of the Gospel of Christ, through the instrumentality of the Church.
A cheering instance of private generosity--worth of imitation--has already been given through the most Rev. the Metropolitan, by "a lady friend who conceals her name," viz. a donation of £500 towards a residence for the Bishop at the Saulte St. Marie, with a promise "of doing more if spared."
Arrangements are being made by the diocesan synods for canvassing the whole province, and we cannot doubt that the Churches of British North American, which have now for more than a century been supported from England, and which at the present moment receive from the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel more than £16,000 per annum, will show by their earnest efforts towards self-help and independent growth that all that has been done for them in the past is likely to produce ample fruit in ages to come.