The Great Migration West

From 1867-1914 hundreds of thousands of Canadians, immigrants, and Aboriginals were moving west and impacted the region.  Economically, industries crucial to Canada today, mining, agriculture, and oil became especially paramount.

Clifford Sifton, the Minister of the Interior, encouraged people from Asia to settle in British Columbia.  For the first time, people were coming to Canada not solely from the British Isles and from British colonies.

Canadian Residential Schools

The movement west to unknown lands, then dominated by Aboriginal Peoples and Metis, was helped by a series of laws that gave land to settlers, protected them from First Nations and Metis attacks, and ensured prosperity.  It also created a reason for the building of the railway, built largely by the Asian immigrants Sifton courted.  These immigrants worked despite the daily racist attacks and insults hurled at them by white Anglo-Saxon Canadians.

Between 1901-1914, 750 000 immigrants came to Canada from the United States, and while many were returning to their homeland, roughly 250 000 were newcomers to Canada.  These new Canadians were Germans, Hungarians, Norwegians, and Swedes.  Also 175 000 Ukrainians and  115 000 Poles moved to Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and B.C.

Japanese Internment Camps

The movement was not all positive.  While Canada gained more territory and build settlements, it did so at the expense of Aboriginals and Metis who had lived on the land for generations.  It usurped the land from them and forced them onto reservations and into residential schools, a error in judgment Canada is still trying to rectify.

Also, the Chinese and Japanese who came over to work on the railroads endured racism, sanctioned by the government.  Decades later during World War One and Two they would face discrimination again when they were forcibly put in internment camps.

These actions have resulted in greater population density west of Ontario, an increase in urban centres, like Regina, Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver, and Surrey, and high percentages of residents of Asian or eastern European descent.  They have also resulted in the economies of western Canada today, namely farming, oil, industry, and commodifying natural resources.

These have changed how politics is done on a national and local level in Canada and in these provinces.

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