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British North America
The North-West Territories of Canada


By SIDNEY G. B. CORYN

Westward of Winnipeg tlie almost unbroken prairie stretches for 800 miles, traversed by the main line of the Canadian Pacific Railway. South of the railway main line and of its branches is the United States frontier. To the north lie the illimitable plains of the North-West Territories. Of this vast plain of 190,000 square miles of land, the southern portion derives a special importance from the proximity of the railway, and the consequent intimate knowledge of its characteristics. This great fertile tract is divided into the provinces of Assiniboia, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and Athabasca. Beyond are other territories, as yet only partially explored, including the Yukon with its unknown gold wealth.

Along the line of the railway, settlement has proceeded apace for many years. To-day, a passenger from Winnipeg to the Rocky Mountains would see from the carriage-window a low succession of little prairie settlements with isolated homesteads scattered here and there. He would everywhere see abundant proof of the fertility of the soil and the prosperity of the rattlers.

The chief climatic characteristics of the North-West Territories arc an almost continually clear atmosphere with warm summers and cold winters. Both rain and snow falls are moderate. The soil is for the most part a deep, rich, black loam, ideally adapted for wheat-growing. By the system of land survey in force throughout the North-West Territories, any person who is the sole head of a family, or any male over 1 8 years of age, may acquire land to the extent of 160 acres free of all cost, with the exception of a registration fee of about £2. The whole territory is divided into townships 6 miles square. Each township contains 36 “sections” of 640 acres each, and these again are subdivided into quarter sections of 160 acres each. The 36 sections of each township are numbered consecutively from 1 to 36. The even-numbered sections in cach township are reserved by the Government for free homestead entry, with the exception of sections 8 and 26, which are the property of the Hudson Bay Company. It will thus be evident that the quality of the free homestead land is the same as that of lands offered for sale. A road allowance, one chain wide, is provided for between each section north and south, and between every alternate section east and west. In every township sections 1 1 and 29 are reserved by the Government for school purposes. Education throughout the territories is compulsory and free. The Government grant is nearly 70 per cent, of the total cost. In 1887 there were 111 schools, 125 teachers, and 3144 pupils. At the end of 1896 there were 366 schools in operation, with a staff of 433 teachers, and the number of pupils enrolled was 1 2,796. The number of school districts organised up to 15th September 1896 is: Public schools, 430; Protestant, 3; Roman Catholic, 55. Total, 488.

The religious needs of the people are well attended to in the North-West Territories. Even in the newest settlements arrangements are made for the religious services of the various denominations.

The schools are altogether unsectarian, religion being taught, when desired, during hours specially set apart for the purpose. All religious denominations, whether Christian or not, enjoy equal rights in the schools. The religious needs of the adult population are well attended to in the North-West Territories. Even in the newest settlements arrangements are made for the religious services of the various denominations. There are a number of friendly societies in the Provinces, with branches in the smaller places, and in many of the country school-houses which dot the prairie Masonic and other lodges often meet, and gatherings of an intellectual character are often held. There is nothing lacking in town and country to make life enjoyable that could be expected in any new country.

The anxiety which was once felt by some as to fuel has entirely disappeared upon the discovery of enormous coal-fields. It has been ascertained that between Winnipeg and the Rocky Mountains there are some 65,000 square miles of coal-bearing strata.

The Provincial Government of the North-West Territories has its head-quarters at Regina, an important and growing town 357 miles west of Winnipeg. The representative and governmental institutions are, with modifications, modelled after those of Great Britain. A Lieutenant-Governor represents the Queen, and the representatives of the Legislature are chosen by the people. In addition, and for the management of purely local affairs, there is a well-approved municipal system.

For very many years, ever since the opening of the Canadian Pacific Railway, a steady stream of immigration has been poured into the North-West Territories. While this immigration has been mainly from British countries, the unusual advantages at the disposal of colonists have attracted very many settlers from Germany, Russia, Austria, and Scandinavia, who, by their industry and sobriety, have greatly added to the wealth of the country. The exports of wheat, already large, cannot fail to increase with the spread of colonisation, and there can be very little doubt that before many years the North-West Territories of Canada will hold a commanding position on the wheat market of Europe.

Wheat, however, is by no means the only product of the Territories. As we advance westward, the great stock-raising ranches increase in size and in number, and vast herds of cattle and sheep are annually sent away to the ports of the east. Even in the agricultural districts cuttie-raising goes hand in hand with wheat-growing, and the surest elements of success are to be found upon those homesteads where the “combined” system of farming is adopted. As settlement advances, and the home markets become larger, the ranching industry must advance in proportion, while the available supply for export will remain undiminished.

One of the most important features requiring consideration in a new country is the creation of markets for the commodities which the settler has for sale. In the eastern portion of the Territories there has always been a good market for the wheat, which is there the staple product, but westward, until recently, the opportunities have not been so good. The rapid development of the mining countries of British Columbia has, however, materially changed this. The question of a ready-casli market for everything which can be produced may now be said to be satisfactorily settled, and the incoming settler may feel assured of being able to dispose of any produce lie may have to sell at remunerative prices.


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