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Twenty Years on the Saskatchewan, N.W. Canada

By the Rev. William Newton
Hon. Canon of Saskatchewan

London: Elliot Stock, 1897.

Chapter XXII. The Future of North-west Canada

OUR Eastern Indians, and certain people in Europe, have spoken of our Saskatchewan and Western Countries as the 'Land of the Setting Sun.' It is an indefinite description, but not more indefinite than is the country itself. A few years ago these new lands were known to only a few persons, and if they returned to Europe, or the eastern parts of Canada, they were regarded as great travellers; but now that the Canadian Pacific Railway so quickly carries its human freight, these regions are found to be the world's great natural highway to the East. This has been the instinct of travellers for three hundred years.

Columbus conceived that he, on coming West, had reached the East; hence his mistake as to the size of the world helped his enterprise, and gave the name of Indians to the natives, who might well have been called Asiatics.

So with later travellers: they have sought persistently for a north-west passage to Asia from Europe, and they have found that passage by the railway which has opened up these regions, and closely connected them with the far East. We are now at the doors of ancient and vast empires, such as China and Japan, and these nations must influence greatly our destiny in these border countries. Nature seems to have made our extensive plains, and our coal-fields, and our splendid soil, to be the stay of great peoples, who in the future will traffic with the East, giving it their produce, and receiving theirs in return.

Placing us thus on one of the world's central highways necessarily involves additions to our population, and to our wealth, which will surprise the future generations. The twentieth century may see these North-West regions the very centre of the world, with cities on the Columbian coast as great and magnificent as old Tyre and Carthage were, and inland towns as great and prosperous as Birmingham or Manchester.

North-West Canada has all these promises if the old British stock, and the old British virtue, rule in the land. Our climate will rear the highest possible race of mankind physically, if the mental, moral, and spiritual qualities are carefully cultivated with the physical, in order to make a well-balanced and perfect nation. Humanity here may be worthy of the past ages, and the great inheritances of which we take possession.

Rumours are rife already of railways connecting Northern British Columbia with Hudson Bay, thereby shortening by a thousand miles the route to Great Britain, and thus opening up for the Saskatchewan country the world's markets, both in Europe and Asia.

Also it has been found practicable, by Behring's Straits, to connect us with the great Siberian and Russian railways, and this will work wonders on our position in relation to the world, and will cause changes too boundless for the imagination to adequately picture. Twenty-five years more will turn some of these possibilities into facts.

Does Canada realize the vast import of these impending events, on which her very life and destiny hang? What does it mean? Russia, the most ambitious of the nations, will be close at our doors, and able at her will to pour her disciplined hordes--the very hordes, as I believe, that troubled and overran the Old World for centuries, and nearly conquered Europe--those hordes of Mongols and Tartars, scientifically trained, and relying on the tremendous forces which science has in late years placed at the disposal of great armies. She will be on the North Pacific, as she is on the North Sea in Europe, ready for attack on civilization, but defended herself by her impregnable barriers of snow and ice--in days to come the pirate of the nations, and the enemy of freedom everywhere.

Yes, Canada! This ambitious and perfidious Russia will soon be at our gates with her millions of bayonets, her tremendous forces, her innumerable Cossacks and Tartars, led by the most unprincipled and astute intellects the world has seen. These will find us open to attack, as soon as our prosperity lures their greed, their lust, and their ambition. Why has Russia impoverished her finances to build her railroads, and why does she keep a vast and powerful fleet in the North Pacific? Only for purposes of conquest, and in order that her ambition may have free play, and that she may use her opportunities. Do Canadians who talk of independence fully consider what they do? And do they know how helpless they are apart from the mother country if great emergencies should arise? These emergencies may seem yet a long way off, but in the life of nations they really are close at hand.

How fortunate for Canada is the fact that Alaska belongs to the United States, and not to ourselves! The United States, whose sympathy with Russia has been often manifest, may in a century, or even less, be glad to enter into an alliance with Canada, and the common motherland, when Russia is predominant in the North Pacific, for the protection of our freedom, our honour, our civilization, and our very existence as independent nations.

Besides events connected with Russia, we people of North-West America, as a part of the British Empire, may be greatly influenced by the England of the East--viz., the new Japanese power. Perhaps Russia may be checkmated in her designs in the far East, and find a foe close at hand equal to her diplomacy and her ambition; but even then Canada, and especially North-West Canada, will be surely drawn into the maelstrom--she cannot be indifferent. Supposing that Japan brilliantly builds and manages her fleet, and conquers China with her armies, and marshals the whole yellow race by sea and land, what would Canada--yes, what would all America--say and do? The world's greatest events in the impending years for Canada, and even for Europe, may transpire, not in Europe, or on the borders of India, but in the new, yet ancient, Pacific Seas.

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