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Selling the Prairie Good Life

“Living is cheap; climate is good; education and land are free.” So proclaimed Canada West: The Last Best West magazine in 1910. More promotional brochure for immigration than magazine, it was part of the Canadian government’s drive to attract skilled farmers – British and American immigrants were primarily targeted – to settle and till the soils of Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and British Columbia and turn the land into a cornucopia to feed industrialized eastern Canada and Europe. Sir John A. Macdonald thought the best way to encourage eastern industrial growth was to establish reliable food production for its growing population on Canadian soil. The ideal agricultural society envisioned by government officials was modern, highly developed, and based on family values; this agenda was articulated in their magazine, considered by immigration agents to be the most useful publication for promoting the West.


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Canada’s Silk Road

It was in the early 1930s, when Mary Lynas was in Grade Six, that she and her classmates would race down to the Canadian Pacific’s train yard on the eastern fringes of Calgary to watch a spectacle that still captivates her. “That train came in at terrific speed,” recalls the granddaughter of Col. James Walker. “They stopped only to put water in, change crews and go again.”


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Growing Their Own

One crisp October morning in 1754 Anthony Henday encountered a few Blackfoot scouts in the hills near present-day Lethbridge Alberta. He sat under the autumn yellows and reds and smoked with them. When he visited their camp two weeks later to discuss trade, again protocol had it that he first sit and smoke, this time with the elders. Henday offered his favourite tobacco, but the native leaders preferred their own. “They think nothing of my tobacco,” he later wrote in his journal. The feeling was mutual: he “set as little value on theirs, which is dryed Horse-dung.”


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Around the World by Canoe

When an impulsive young adventurer asked a crusty seaman if he could achieve what the American Joshua Slocum had--sailing around the world in a small craft--Captain John Voss told Norman Luxton he could go one better. He would cross three oceans in a canoe. One hundred years ago, they set off on their voyage. It wasn't all smooth sailing.


 
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