Chapter I. Description of the Field
THE Canadian mission-field extends, broadly speaking, from the Georgian Bay on the East to the Pacific Ocean on the West--a distance of 2,500 miles; and from the International boundary line in the South to the Arctic Ocean in the North--a distance of 2,000 miles; thus containing an area, in round numbers, of 5,000,000 square miles.
As might be expected, such a vast area contains the greatest variety of climate, physical features, and material resources. Eternal snow and ice hold the far North in their frozen grip, and sometimes see the mercury grow sluggish and congeal; White River on the north shore of Lake Superior [1/2] is said to be the coldest spot on the continent: on the prairies the heat of summer is almost like that of the tropics, and the cold of winter almost like that of the frigid zone: the breezes from the Rocky Mountains temper the rigours of the climate in Western Alberta: while a genial climate, not unlike that of England, rainy in the winter, and glorious in the summer, reigns for five hundred miles along the Pacific coast; and over this whole area, owing to the dryness of the air and the brightness of the sun, the climate is extremely bracing, healthful, and enjoyable.
Picturesque rocks, gloomy forests and beautiful lakes and streams abound in the region north of the great lakes. From Winnipeg to the Rockies the prairie is devoid of trees and even of hills; for half the distance it is perfectly flat, then it begins to undulate until it merges into the foot-hills where the Rockies suddenly appear grim, bare, and forbidding. The five hundred miles that divide the prairies from the Pacific contain one of the most glorious panoramas to be met with in the world, of lofty peak, wooded mountainside, eternal snow and glaciers, placid lakes, giddy canyons, and swift-flowing rivers; while [2/3] the combination of sea and mountain, of deep inlet and jagged coast line, that forms the Gulf of Georgia, is well worthy to rank alongside of it.
And this vast region, which for centuries was thought to be barren and inhospitable--fit only to be the home of the buffalo, the fur-bearing animal, and the roving Indian--is gradually unfolding its treasures, which promise to make it one of the richest, as well as one of the fairest, homes of mankind. The district lying between the great lakes and Hudson Bay is rich almost beyond comparison in minerals, in timber, in water power, and in arable land. There are to be found Cobalt and Copper Cliff, the greatest silver and nickel mines in the world; there is the great forest region and the great clay belt; there will be found by and by the homes of prosperous and contented myriads. Sault Ste Marie is now one of the great industrial centres of the continent; and the S. Mary River, which conveys the waters of Lake Superior into Lake Huron, carries more shipping than the Suez Canal. The great lakes must ever remain in the summer time great highways of commerce and travel; and Hudson Bay bids fair to become [3/4] a great outlet for the trade of the West. The prairies can produce grain to feed the hungry millions of the earth; sheep may be successfully raised in the South; the West is an ideal region for the raising of horses and cattle; and irrigation promises to make the tiller of the soil independent of the seasons. The mountains of Kootenay contain some of the richest mineral deposits known. The Okanagan district is fast being covered with fruit-trees. The salmon fisheries of the Gulf of Georgia, and the big trees of British Columbia, are among the wonders of the world. Coal is mined in abundance in Southern Alberta, on Vancouver Island, and in many other places; while the Pacific coast line, with its rising cities, its safe harbours, and its thousand indentations, places the immense trade of the Pacific within reach of the Dominion. Even its position on the map gives Canada a great advantage over all competitors; its railways and waterways are the shortest routes across the continent; the Pacific coast has the ports nearest to Japan and China; and the Atlantic seaboard those nearest to Great Britain and Europe.
Such is the mission-field of the Canadian Church--such its extent, its climate, its physical [4/5] features, its varied and inexhaustible resources--a field surely destined to become the cradle and nursery of a mighty nation, for on to its broad and fertile acres is being poured the surplus population of the world.