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Ten Thousand Miles Through Canada
Chapter XIII

Women’s organizations—Christian Temperance Union— National Council of Women—A suffragette echo of Westminster—The recognition of women in the State—Clubs and societies—Socialism in the Dominion—“Seizing the reins of power”—The unfurling of the red flag—The safety valve of democracy.

WOMEN’S organizations have rapidly developed in Canada. There are no less than twenty-six throughout the Dominion, many of them of great numerical strength, such as the Ontario Women’s Institute, which numbers 16,000 members and has 600 branches.

The Women’s Christian Temperance Union has a general organization for Canada, and an affiliated society in each of the provinces. Distinctly religious interests are fostered by seven missionary societies connected with the various Churches.

There is a National Council of Women, which held its annual meeting at Halifax last year. Its outlook is broad and its criticisms trenchant. Strong resolutions were passed in connexion with current topics. It has a standing committee on employment for women. Reports were received from its committees on all subjects affecting the feminine community. At its last meeting a committee on white slave traffic gave a report with startling details. It petitioned the Government for the appointment of women on the Royal Commission on Technical Education. Care of feeble-minded women and children was discussed, and minor details included the harmfulness of many theatres and cinematographic displays.

The council declared in favour of Women’s Suffrage, a movement which received support from many of the branch meetings, including the Women’s Christian Temperance Union of Manitoba. This movement has been widely discussed and obtained many supporters. The Toronto “Globe,” the leading Liberal paper in Canada, threw its columns open for the discussion of the subject in the early part of the year. A decided majority favoured the suffrage, the main contention being that women knew the women’s problem best and were qualified to influence legislation on the subject. European methods of advocating the movement were adopted in the Ontario Legislature in the spring, and an echo of St. Stephens, Westminster, was heard, when a woman rose in the gallery and said—

“There is one thing you have forgotten in your deliberations, and that is justice to women. I hope that at your future meetings you will give more attention to the cause of women. That is all I have to say.”

The interrupter was Miss Olivia Smith, said to be an Englishwoman. The incident occurred as the session was about to be closed. She escaped from the House unmolested.

Canada is by no means insensible to the worth of its leading women. Sex is not likely to prove a disqualification where merit is concerned. The Dominion Government has appointed Mrs. Willoughby Cummings, Secretary to the Women’s National Council, to a Government Office. King’s College, Windsor, conferred on her at the same time the degree of D.C.L.

The influence of women on education and their fitness for managerial service is further attested by the appointment of three women to the Senate of the Toronto University, namely Winifred W. Leisenring, B.A. Margery Curlette, B.A., and Augusta Stowe-Gullen of Toronto, appointments which had hitherto been unprecedented. Paris has gone to Toronto for the selection of a distinguished woman, Miss Helen MacMurchy, M.D., to serve on the Permanent International Committee of the Hygiene Congress, Paris.

There are also a Women’s Canadian Historical Society, a Household Economic Association, an Alexandra Club, and a Press Club with several branches.

Socialism has gained considerable hold on a section of the Canadian people. The principles of the advanced wing, of whom the Marxians are the type, do not so far bulk largely in the propaganda of the movement.

I was present at a meeting in Vancouver, which was held on a Sunday evening in a large music hall, and was well attended. It is difficult to judge status by dress in the Dominion, as there is a uniform air of well-to-do-ness about all classes. It was quite evident from a glance at the audience that it was not comprised of those who espouse Socialism as a possible solution of problems of which they are the immediate victims. Many of them were in evening dress, and the occupants of boxes at the sides of the building, which included ladies, looked as if economic laws had not dealt unkindly with them, Socialism or no Socialism.

After the lecture, questions were invited, which served to elicit the principles of the speaker more clearly than his address. Amongst other things he was opposed to sending social representatives to the Dominion Government, and expressed the pious hope that if such a thing were to happen he would not be alive to witness it. Strangely enough, he had no objection to the Socialist being represented on local bodies. His aim was “to seize the reins of power,” and this point was laboured at some length. Questioned how this was to be done if the Socialists remained unrepresented in Parliament, the lecturer became vague and declined to give a clear answer.

It was evident that many amongst the audience were against this phase of the movement. Pressed on the point as to means, he replied pictorially that when he left the platform and passed through the door, he would not go round the table, zigzag, or take the opposite direction, but go straight for the door.

His cross-examiner was on his feet again. He accepted the figure, but even to reach the door, aeroplanes not being available, some steps were necessary ; what were they ?

The chairman prudently came to the lecturer’s relief by declaring the meeting closed.

The form of Socialism that receives most support in Canada is the municipalization of essential public commodities instead of capitalizing them. This, as has been pointed out, is the policy of many associations. A large meeting held at Ottawa was addressed by a clergyman who instanced the cases of education, tram-cars, and the post office, as in consonance with the principles of the best Socialism. He had no hope that the Pulpit, the Press, or the rich men would further the cause; it was for the workers to emancipate themselves. In his judgment Socialism created family life and capitalism destroyed it.

Other sections emphasized a more extreme form of the movement. In Montreal the red flag of Socialism was unfurled and the Bible exploited to show that class distinctions are the curse of ancient and modern life. Capitalists and employers were freely denounced. On May Day a meeting was held in the same city, which was addressed in English, French, and Yiddish. A large proportion of the community consisted of Russian Jews. A procession of over 4000 marched through the city of Winnipeg on the same day, and resolutions were carried in denunciation of the capitalist class.

A Social Democratic party has been founded during the past year, making Toronto its chief centre. It is co-operating with labour organizations, and is avowedly socialistic. A meeting was held in Toronto, and one of the speakers is reported to have said—

“The unrest in the world is caused by the robbery of the working classes by the capitalist class. The remedy is to stop the robbery and to give the toilers a fair share of the wealth they produce. The Churches have no live message for the workers of to-day ; all sects alike cater only for the wealthy ; the poor and needy are not wanted. Instead of trying to uplift those who are fallen by the wayside, or who are distressed, they shun them.”

The usual contradictory positions incidental to extreme views on economics naturally evolve. One leader gave an address on “Why a Socialist cannot be a Christian,” and prophesied that the in-coming of Socialism meant the obliteration of Christianity.

Another claimed that Christianity and Socialism were identical, and urged working men, contrary to the Vancouver lecturer, to get the functions and machinery of government into their own hands. The elaboration of the argument was as follows :—

“The machinery of production would then be transformed into the collective property of all. All would then take their part in the production and would have the right to consume to the full value of their production, and modern wage slavery would become as extinct as the earlier forms of chattel slavery and serfdom.”

An American statesman remarked at a socialistic meeting in Canada that the plutocratic class in the United States mustered 9 per cent, of the population and possessed £ 13,400,000,000, or 70 per cent, of the wealth ; the middle class numbered 21 per cent, of the population and held £4,800,000,000, or 25 per cent, of the wealth; that the lower class numbered 70 per cent, of the population and owned 5 per cent, of the wealth.

Without entering into the merits of the question, Socialism and the free expression of opinion on that and other questions prove the strength and stability of the Canadian Government. It recognizes that freedom of speech is the safety valve of a great democracy; that these public discussions exhibit the strength and weakness of every movement. If there are elements of good sense and sound logic in the arguments, it is for the good of the State that they be, as far as practicable, embodied in the statutes of the land. If they are weak, unpractical, it needs but the light to kill them. Freedom of speech is the antidote to secret societies. Even the Russian in Canada, to whom this liberty is extended in common with other citizens, learns how to use and not abuse it. The attitude of the Government is further illustrated in the appointment of public servants from the class supposed to consist of such inflammable material. A well-known local Socialist at Toronto was selected last year to serve on the Royal Commission on Technical Education. He was a member of a body holding advanced views, in the opinion of some, inimical to the welfare of the State.

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