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Report of the Select Committee of the Legislative Assembly

Report of the Select Committee of the Legislative Assembly

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Excerpt from Report of the Select Committee of the Legislative Assembly: Appointed to Inquire Into the Causes and Importance of the Emigration, Which Takes Place Annually, From Lower Canada to the United States

It is true, that when a country is sufficiently peopled, when the whole extent of its territory is in a state of cultivation, when all its agricultural, industrial, manufacturing, and commercial resources have become exhausted in nourishing an overflowing population, without any other means of existence left than begging, it is true that, under such circumstances, an emigration which has the effect of transforming families, which were a burthen to the older community, into founders of a new one, is a benefit to the country thus afflicted and to mankind in general.

But in a new country, a portion only of whose territory is in a state of cultivation, whose population is no where numerous enough to present the painful spectacle of pauperism; in a country which, instead of having an excess of population to cast off, calls, on the contrary, to its assistance the strength and capital of foreign emigration; the double fact that this foreign emigration leaves in it very few settlers, and that the inhabitants themselves emigrate in great numbers to foreign countries, must arouse the attention of the Legislator, and lead him to inquire, whether all is right in the order of things which it is his duty to direct and modify? whether it is nature herself which does not offer to the inhabitant of the country, sufficient advantages to induce him to remain; or whether it is not rather society which has neglected to turn to advantage the field which nature has afforded?

Allowing to the climate the destruction caused by the wheat-fly, to the natural movement of the population from the north to the south, and from the east to the west, and to causes more or less accidental and uncontrollable, their probable share of influence; Your Committee have still found subjects for very serious reflection on the part of the Legislature and the Executive Government in some of the other causes of this emigration, which fall more particularly within the sphere of action of one or the other of these authorities.

It would, undoubtedly, be absurd to attempt to prevent or even to discourage those inhabitants of the country who can find more accessible, better cultivated, and cheaper lands elsewhere, from seeking out of their country for that which their country denies them.

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