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British North America
Ontario


By PETER BYRNE
(Agent for Ontario)

Ontario is the principal member of that fair sisterhood of provinces which, along with several extensive territories not yet organised as provinces, constitute the Dominion of Canada. It ranks first in population and political power as well as in wealth and general development. It is upwards of 1100 miles in length and 700 in breadth, and embraces an area of 220,000 square miles. By comparison it has been found to be as, large as the whole of the six New England States, together with the States of New York, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. It exceeds the area of the United Kingdom by nearly 100,000 square miles, and that of France by 15,000 square miles. It is also interesting to note that Ontario and France lie in almost the same latitudes, namely, between the parallels of 42° and 52° north.

The principal boundaries of Ontario are the Ottawa River and the Province of Quebec on the east, the river St. Lawrence and the great lakes and the State of Minnesota on the south and south-east, Manitoba on the west, and the Albany River and James Bay on the north.

Before the conquest of Canada by the British, Ontario was a part of “New Franco,” which name was applied to the whole of the vast territory which came under the Union Jack as a consequence of that important event. But it was not till 1791 that it was formed into a separate Province, under the name of Upper Canada or Canada West. The territory to the east was at the same time similarly organised under the name of Lower Canada or Canada East. The latter was at that time comparatively well settled by the French, who numbered about 100,000, and who, being guaranteed b}r treaty the enjoyment of their own laws, language, and religion, were content to remain in the country as British subjects. The population of Upper Canada at the same period was only about 12,000. This disparity in the respective populations of the two Provinces at that time is accounted for by Ontario being an inland country, and being rendered still more difficult of access by several formidable obstructions to the navigation of the St. Lawrence River, between Montreal and the great lakes of which it is the outlet. These obstructions consist of “rapids,” which have long since been overcome by the construction of a series of canals along the route of the St. Lawrence and the Niagara. These canals have a total length of 51 miles, and are among the finest public works of the kind of which any country can boast.

Colonel Simcoe was appointed the first Lieutenant-Governor of Upper Canada. The first parliament of the Province was summoned to meet at Newark or Niagara, a town at the mouth of the Niagara River, in 1792. It consisted of a Legislative Council of seven members and an Assembly of sixteen members. For military reasons the seat of government was afterwards removed to Little York, now Toronto, where the second parliament met in 1797. Governor Simcoe was an able and humane administrator, and signalised his term of office by framing and causing to be passed much useful legislation, on English models, including trial by jury, and an Act for the abolition of slavery which anticipated by forty years the famous Act of the British Parliament abolishing slavery throughout all the dependencies of the Empire.

The earliest settlers of Upper Canada were for the most part refugees from the thirteen colonies, during and after the war of American Independence. They are known in history as “United Empire Loyalists.” Many of them were persons of wealth and high standing. They made great sacrifices for the sake of their loyalty to the mother country, leaving their homes and lands and going forth to establish themselves in a distant forest wilderness of which they knew little or nothing save that it was under the old flag. The British authorities received them gladly, and gave them liberal grants of land, with rations and other assistance, till they were able to produce their own crops. But they nevertheless suffered terrible hardships and privations in their early struggles with the forces of nature. However, they found before long that Upper Canada was a goodly land, with a fertile soil and salubrious climate, which would in time yield them an ample reward for their labours and perseverance. The fame of the Province as a desirable place of settlement, where free grants of land were to be had, quickly spread through the neighbouring states and the British Isles, and great numbers of emigrants soon began to arrive to help to clear the forests, to make roads, cultivate farms, erect villages and towns, and share in the rapidly-growing prosperity of the new colony.

The population of Ontario at the present time is about two and a quarter millions. It includes about 17,000 aboriginal Indians; a good many people of foreign origin, especially German and French (from Quebec Province); but the great bulk are emigrants, or the descendants of emigrants from the United Kingdom.

The Indians are a remnant of the powerful and warlike tribes that held possession of the country before the advent of the white man. They are harmless and peaceable enough now. A portion of them have settled down to farming, and have made good homes for themselves on the land preserved for them by the Government. They have also schools and churches of their own. But too many of them still prefer a gipsy sort of life, with its squalid privations, to the rewards of regular industry and the restraints of civilised society.

By a comparison of the vast area of Ontario with its sparse population, it will be seen that only a small part of it is actually occupied by settlers. In fact, its exploration may be said to be yet incomplete. Only the year before last a new river, 300 miles in length, was discovered by a Government surveying party in the region of James Bay. The country through which it flows is covered with timber, much of which is valuable ; and the soil is said to be well suited for agricultural purposes. The southern portions of the Province, where the older settlements are situated, are noted for their fertility and the rich variety and abundance of the agricultural and horticultural wealth they produce. All the ordinary farm crops are raised in perfection, besides others such as maize, which it is impossible to bring to maturity as a field crop in England. Fruit is also cultivated with great success, especially apples, pears, plums, peaches, grapes, melons, and tomatoes. The three last named, as well as the others, grow freely and come to maturity in the open air. It has been estimated that Ontario has an area suitable for grape culture at least equal to half the present area of vineyards in France. In average years grapes can be bought at a halfpenny per pound or less, peaches 2s. to 3s. per peck, and tomatoes a shilling a bushel. Strawberries and raspberries, as well as a great variety of other small fruits, grow in great abundance in every part of the Province.

At the Chicago Exposition, where all the States of the Union competed with the Canadian Provinces, Ontario obtained by far the greatest number of awards for the excellence and variety of her fruit as well as many other exhibits.

As to climate, Ontario has a warmer summer and colder winter than Britain, but the cold is tempered by a clear, dry atmosphere, so that it causes less discomfort than the damps and fogs of winter weather in England. In Canada, snow is as welcome as the flowers in spring. Here, it no sooner falls than it is converted into slush, causing universal discomfort and disgust. In the steadier and more reliable winter season of Canada, it comes as a boon and a blessing to men, ministering alike to their convenience, their pleasure, and their profit. It makes excellent roads everywhere, along which the farmer can drive with ease and celerity heavy loads of produce to market in his winter vehicle, the sleigh. It also greatly facilitates work in the woods, which is mainly carried on in the winter season. Again, the Ontario farmer having then little to do but feed his live stock and get his year’s supply of fuel from the woods, is enabled to take advantage of good sleighing to pay visits to distant friends. Young people of both sexes also find pleasure in sleigh drives, and in this way attend concerts, parties, and other social gatherings. Plenty of amusement is likewise found in skating, curling, tobogganing, and other exhilarating pastimes. When it is added that often for weeks together the winter sun shines from a clear sky, and the snow remains dry underfoot, it will be easily understood that the winter season in Canada is a time of social enjoyment and healthful recreation. Indeed nearly every person who has had experience of the two countries prefers the winter of Canada to that of Great Britain. There are of course occasional thaws, when the snow and icu become slushy, but the Canadians protect themselves from this inconvenience by universally wearing rubber overshoes or boots. Dwelling-houses are kept warm by means of stoves or furnaces, wood being generally used as fuel in the country and hard coal in the towns.

There is but a very short spring in Ontario, the transition from ice and snow to the awakening of vegetable life being remarkably rapid.

The typical summer of Ontario is bright and warm, with occasional periods of oppressively hot or sultry weather, but with fewer wet and cloudy days than in this country. The autumn temperature, and especially the later portion of it, is usually most delightful. The glories of the Ontario landscape during this latter season, the foliage of the trees and shrubs being brilliant with rich colouring, if once seen are never forgotten.

Among the chief physical features of Ontario are the great lakes or inland seas which lie along the southern and south-western borders. These lakes, together with the St. Lawrence River, which conveys their surplus waters to the ocean, constitute the largest body of fresh water on the globe. They have considerable influence on the climate, moderating both the heat of summer and the cold of winter. The Niagara River and its world-famous Falls form another striking feature of the geography of the Province. The Niagara is a part of the long boundary line between Canada and the United States, so that the two countries share between them the ownership of the great cataract. But the principal portion of the Falls belongs to Canada, and the finest view of the sublime scene as a whole is obtained from the Canada side of the river.

Rivers and streams and lakes abound everywhere in Ontario, and manufacturing industries of various kinds are very largely carried mi by water-power.

Considering the extent of the Province, there is a remarkable absence of hills of any considerable height. The surface is everywhere undulating, and where not under cultivation is wooded.

The Ontario farmers have for several years past devoted a great deal of attention to dairying and cattle-raising, and have achieved great success in both. Canada is now the largest exporter of cheese to the British markets, where it meets an ever-increasing demand at remunerative prices. This favourable state of things is largely the result of a wise policy on the part of the Ontario Government, in encouraging the formation of cheese factories and employing experts to train and instruct the farmers in the most advanced scientific methods of manufacture. A similar course of procedure is being followed with a view to improve the quality of Canadian butter. “Creameries” in charge of experts have already been established in a great many districts, in which butter of the finest quality is manufactured specially to suit the requirements of the British market. Government instructors are also employed in diffusing information throughout the rural districts by means of “travelling dairies.” They give practical demonstrations to the wives and daughters of the farmers of the best methods of butter-making. By these means it is believed that before long the manufacture and export of Canadian butter may be placed on the same secure basis as Canadian cheese. The value of dairy products exported from Canada in 1896 amounted to upwards of £3,000,000 sterling.

Ontario has long been noted for its valuable herds of thoroughbred cattle, and for the enterprise of its principal breeders. All the most famous and most approved breeds are well represented, but shorthorns are the most numerous. Much attention is also bestowed on the breeding of horses, sheep, and swine, which are largely exported; the last named in the form of bacon and hams, which have a high reputation in Britain for their excellent quality.

In order the more effectually to improve the state of agriculture in the Province, the Government many years ago established an Agricultural College, with a large experimental farm attached, for the practical education and training of farmers’ sons in every branch of the business. The college has a principal and a large and efficient staff of professors to carry on the work of instruction. The pupils attend classes one half of the day, and the other half work in the fields or among the stock. For their work on the farm they are paid wages, which go towards the reduction of the fees for board and tuition. The fees are very moderate. If there are vacancies, pupils from other provinces and from the old country are occasionally admitted to the privileges of the college. Branch schools for instruction in dairying operations, and model or experimental farms, have been more recently established in other districts. The Agricultural College proper is situated near the town of Guelph, and is considered one of the most thoroughly equipped and most successful institutions of the kind on the American Continent. The important work of agricultural and horticultural education is further promoted by a great many voluntary associations, each devoted to some special subject, regarding which they collect and diffuse information for the general good. All such associations receive grants of money from the Government to aid them in carrying on their operations. Farmers’ Institutes and Agricultural Societies are similarly assisted and encouraged. As might be expected, this liberal and enlightened policy has been productive of an amount of good out of all proportion to the money spent in carrying it out.

Free grants of land are allotted to settlers in some of the back townships of Ontario on easy conditions of settlement; but as a rule emigrants are wisely advised to buy a partly-cleared farm rather than proceed to select and clear a “free grant” for themselves. “Land hunting”—that is, the searching for and taking up of a free farm—is an arduous and tedious operation, which many attempt and give up in despair. Only the pioneer who has been brought up in the backwoods, and who is consequently accustomed to such undertakings, can properly cope with the difficulties attending them. It is therefore far better for an old-country settler to purchase an “ improved farm ” in the older-settled districts than to face the risks and hardships of the bush. This course is especially recommended to those who have considerable capital. Such persons can generally purchase for cash, or partly on credit, a good farm agreeably situated, with house and outbuildings upon it, and within easy reach of churches, schools, and market towns, at from £S to £15 per acre. For those possessed of but a small amount of capital, a good plan is to take a rented farm. These can be generally had on moderate terms. To persons of independent means, and with young families to educate and settle in life, Ontario offers the advantages of cheap living and cheap education. The expense of a complete collegiate or university course in Ontario is a mere fraction of what a similar training costs in England.

Lovers of hunting and fishing can find plent}7 of sport in Ontario. Excellent fish abound in all the rivers and lakes, and there are 110 restrictions. Those fond of the gun, by going far enough afield can find plenty of big game, such as the moose, the caribou, and the deer; also wolves and bears arc often to be met with in the northern parts of the country.

Next to agriculture, the timber trade is the most important interest in Ontario. Many thousands of square miles of forest still exist, from which a considerable portion of the revenue of the Province is derived, and many thousands of the population obtain their livelihood. The Crown lands are leased to “lumber men,” who take out the more valuable timber for exportation and home consumption. Licences to cut and remove the timber over given areas are sold by public auction to the highest bidder. In the year 1893, 21,545 square miles of forest were under lease for lumbering purposes. During the last few years the demand for wood-pulp for paper-making has made the Ontario forests more valuable than ever, and added one more to the many important manufacturing industries carried on in the Province. The trees used for this purpose arc mainly spruce and poplar.

There are few countries richer in minerals than Ontario. Besides the precious metals, there are enormous deposits of copper, iron, nickel, lead, petroleum, s;dt, gypsum, &c. The nickel mines of Sudbury, in the northern part of the Province, arc among the largest in the world, the supply of ore being enormous. This metal has acquired a fresh importance and an enhanced value from its property, only recently discovered, of adding greatly to the strength of steel used for the making of big guns, armour plates, steam boilers, &c. This important discovery has largely increased the demand for nickel during the past few years. Gold-mining is also fast becoming a leading industry. The gold discoveries lately made in the Rainy River and other districts to the west of Lake Superior, have produced the liveliest interest not only throughout Canada, but also in mining circles in this country. Already several mines have been opened, and are now producing gold in paying quantities. The districts over which the auriferous rocks extend cover an area of many thousands of square miles. The ore is known as “free-millm”—that is, the gold can be extracted from it comparatively easily and cheaply. This is an immense advantage, as it renders even low-grade ore, containing but a few pennyweights of gold to the ton, capable of being worked at a profit. Among the other advantages in the Ontario gold-fields are a healthy climate, an abundance of water, unlimited supplies of timber for mining and building purposes and for fuel, and cheap supplies of food. The district is also easily accessible. The vast extent of territory over which the gold-bearing rock formations extend leads to the inevitable conclusion that the ore they contain is practically inexhaustible, and thus gold-mining gives promise of becoming a permanent as well as a most valuable industry. The most recent discoveries have naturally given a great impulse to the work of exploration, testing of reefs, and the staking out of claims. There are therefore plenty of opportunities in these Ontario gold-fields for young, energetic, enterprising men, especially those with capital, and who are not afraid of the rough life of the mining camp.

Manufacturing industries of nearly every kind are carried on successfully in Ontario, and some of their products are extensively exported to this and other countries. One of the principal of these is that of musical instruments, especially organs and pianos. Several large firms are engaged in this branch of manufacture, and a considerable proportion of their output finds a market in the United Kingdom.

The Provincial Government of Ontario has exclusive jurisdiction in questions relating to property and civil rights, education, and all other matters of local concern.

Matters of a general character, affecting all parts of Canada, are under the control of the Dominion or Federal Government, which has its seat at Ottawa, the capital of Canada. The Government of Ontario comprises an Executive of seven members and a Legislative Assembly for the making of laws, and having similar power over matters assigned to it as the Imperial Parliament. There is a Lieutenant-Governor, who represents the Queen, in whose name he sanctions the bills passed by the Assembly. The Parliamentary forms and procedure are modelled on those of the Parliament of England. The Ministry hold office only so long as they enjoy the confidence of the people’s representatives. The Ontario Assembly is unfettered by a Second Chamber. Members receive an allowance to cover expenses while attending to their Parliamentary duties. Manhood suffrage prevails in the Province.

The fiscal position of Ontario is perhaps unique among self-governing commonwealths. Notwithstanding the expenditure of enormous sums on the subsidising of new railways and the making of hundreds of miles of “colonisation” roads, undertaken with a view to the opening up of the country and the development of its resources, it has no public debt, but, on the contrary, possesses a considerable balance to its credit which varies but little from year to year. This has accrued from a careful and skilful management of the provincial resources during the thirty odd years which have elapsed since the “British North America Act” established Confederation and conferred self-government on the several provinces.

The provincial revenue is derived from a variety of sources, the chief of which are—(1) the fixed annual subsidy payable by the general Government to each province; (2) Crown lands; (3) succession duties; and (4) liquor and mining licences. The “death duties,” which are very moderate, are levied only on rich estates, and the proceeds are applied exclusively to the maintenance of hospitals, asylums, and other institutions of a charitable or benevolent character.

The people of Ontario have long enjoyed the advantage of an efficient and well-organised system of public education, which is constantly undergoing improvement and expansion, and upon which about one-fifth part of the provincial revenue is expended. The schools are of two grades, primary and secondary. The former correspond to the Board Schools in this country, and are called public schools; the latter are called high schools, and give an advanced English education, with science and modern languages, or prepare their pupils, if desired, for a collegiate or university course. Practically both classes of schools are free. They are regularly inspected and examined by Government Inspectors. Besides the above there are Normal Schools, Collegiate Institutes, and Model Schools for the education and training of teachers, who must undergo examinations and receive a Government certificate of fitness before being authorised to teach. The schools are governed by local boards of trustees elected by the ratepayers, and the cost of their maintenance is defrayed partly by Government grants and partly out of the rates. The general system is administered as a department of the Government, with a member of the Executive Council at its head, who has the title of Minister of Education.

The municipal system of Ontario, like that of education, is very thoroughly organised. Equally with the Parliamentary system, it is based on the principle of responsible government. It is literally a “Government of the people, by the people, and for the people.”

The laws of Canada generally are much like those of the mother country. There are, however, differences of more or less importance in relation to some subjects. For example, marriage with a deceased wife’s sister has long been legalised in the Dominion.

From this slight and very imperfect sketch of Ontario it will be apparent that with her superabundance of fertile soil, healthy and invigorating climate, boundless natural wealth, and free institutions, she offers great and solid advantages to enterprising and industrious emigrants, particularly of the agricultural classes. The tenant-farmer could at once become his own landlord with the capital required simply to stock a farm in England; and the farm-labourer may, with a few years of thrifty industry, attain to a practically independent position. The other classes to whom the Province offers great inducements are families possessed of independent, though limited, incomes. These would find cheap living, cheap education, and great facilities for starting their children in useful careers. To the British capitalist desirous of engaging in mining, manufacturing enterprises, or industrial undertakings of any kind, or of obtaining simply an increased return from investments, Ontario offers a great variety of good opportunities for the profitable use of money.

Female domestics are in much request in all parts of the Province at good wages. There is, however, no special demand at the present time for any other class of working-people who are solely dependent on their own labour for the means of subsistence.

Pamphlets containing full information regarding Ontario can be obtained on application to the Ontario Government Agency, 9 James Street, Liverpool.


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