The Canadian Shield Essay

1415 words - 6 pages

In the period between 1760 and confederation, settlement in Lower and Upper Canada pushed into the Canadian Shield. In Lower Canada, settlement in the Shield was mostly by the Saguenay River, St. Maurice Valley and the area north of Montreal. In Upper Canada, settlement was attempted in the Ottawa-Huron Tract which was eastward from Lake Huron into the Ottawa Valley. Canadian colonial settlement shared a fluctuating relationship with the Canadian Shield. The Shield was a barrier to settlement until population increases pushed the boundaries. In the early nineteenth century, the Shield offered a solution to the ideological and economic dilemmas in the Canadian colonies and settlement was encouraged. The settlement that evolved in the Canadian Shield was based on resource extraction, and shaped the landscape of the region. Ultimately, however, settlement in the Shield diminished because of the poor conditions and new settlement solutions were found. The Canadian Shield affected settlement in Lower and Upper Canada because it was a temporary solution in a difficult period of demographic and economic transition. The shield pointed out the limitations of settlement in the Canadian colonies and compelled settlers to establish settlements in the Northwest Interior.
Settlement in the Canadian Shield offered an outlet for the growing population. In the early nineteenth century, Lower Canada experienced a surge of labour, pioneer families and capital from the transatlantic and eastern North America. Settlement began to expand northward; however, according to Geography professor Cole Harris, settlement “hesitated at the edge of the Canadian Shield” and “neither settlers nor capital touched the Canadian Shield until the early 1850s.” The Canadian Shield was a boundary to settlement in Lower Canada, however, population increases provided incentives to breach the margins. Upper Canada similarly experienced population increases, “by the 1850s and 1860s, Upper Canada was rapidly filling in.” In light of this dilemma, the most accessible land left in Upper Canada was the Canadian Shield. In 1856, the Commissioner of Crown Lands reported “almost 57 million acres of Crown land lay north of Lakes Superior and Huron.” Once again, the Canadian Shield was largely unknown, until population surges motivated settlement. The Canadian Shield initially was a barrier to settlement in Lower and Upper Canada; however, because of population growth around the 1850s, the Canadian Shield became a possible solution.
While both Canadian colonies had population issues to push for settlement in the Canadian Shield, in Lower Canada there was also an ideological incentive while in Upper Canada it was more economically driven. In Lower Canada, the francophone culture was in danger because the incoming immigrants were largely British, and the young francophones were leaving the St. Lawrence lowlands for New England factory towns. Francophones promoted settlement in the...

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