In the early 20th century Sir Wilfred Laurier, one of our longest serving Prime Ministers, famously announced: “The twentieth century shall be the century of Canada. . . . For the next hundred years, Canada shall be the star towards which all men who love progress and freedom shall come.” Whether you feel that Laurier was on the mark or not, at the time of this renowned speech in 1904, Canadians were very optimistic about the future.
One of the main reasons for the country’s optimism was the enormously successful campaign to lure immigrants to Western Canada and the economic prosperity that soon followed. No doubt taking advantage of the worldwide interest in the Canadian West triggered by the discovery of gold in the Yukon in 1896, Laurier’s government embarked on an ambitious advertising campaign in Europe and America to populate this vast, near empty region. Homesteaders were offered 160 acres of free western farmland provided the land was worked and permanent residences were established on it.