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REVIEWS THE LEGACY OF THE PIONEERS' EDGAR McINNIS The task of radical readjustment which confronts all nations in this age of world upheaval is one which involves peculiar difficulties for Canada. Any decisions which imply major changes in structure or in policy must take into account certain basic and individual features of our national life. The racial situation by itself is a serious complicating factor. So is our economic structure with its very considerable dependence on world markets. In the reconstruction period which will follow the war there are powerful groups and important interests who are likely to be affected by the changes which circumstances will demand, and the result may be to subject our national unity to more serious strain than we have ever experienced since Confederation. There is anoth.er and more general factor whose significance in this connection is difficult to assess but which still has a bearing on the problems confronting us. That is the comparatively recent emergence of Canada from the pioneer stage of her evolution. This nation, apart from a small French nucleus, has been built in the century and a half which followed the American Revolution. The process of 'expanding the settled frontier continued well into the twentieth century. During the last great surge which completed the occupation of the prairie West, Canada was simultaneously undergoing an industrial revolution and developing the problems consequent upon a rapid urbanization in her older 'communltles . The United States experienced the same thing in the period after the Civil War. But the extensive re.adjustments thus made necessary could be carried out in relative freedom from the pressure of major external crises. Canada, facing this task a full generation later, was at the same time beset with the problems forced on her by a world upheaval, and the present struggle came upon her while her internal difficulties were still unsolved. Moreover, the prevailing mental outlook of Canadians generally was unfavourable to any comprehensive solution. It has frequently·Tht Social Dt rJe!opmtnl of Canada, by S. D. CLARK. Toronto, University of Toronto Press, 1942. Tilt Unknown Country, by BRUCE H UTCHISON. New York, Coward_ McCa~n (Toronto, Longmans. Green). 1942. 117 11 8 THE UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO QUARTERLY been pointed out that the background of the elder generation is predominantly rural. But it is not only that many of our present leaders in industry and politics came from farms or from small towns. There is the added fact that their viewpoints were developed at a time when Canada still possessed an expanding frontier. Even if they did not belong to pioneer families, they were part of a society in which pioneering was still possible, and in which the admonition "Go West !" could be offered as a solution for the difficulties of the individual or a remedy for the economic ills of the community . The result was an individualistic philosophy which was not wholly applicable to more recent conditions. The simple faith of the pioneer hardly answers the subtler and more complex problems created by the coincidence of the disappearance of the agrarian frontier and the development of large urban industrial areas. Possibly one result of the present crisis will be to bring a more general acceptance of this fact. It is highly significant that whereas hitherto we have lagged considerably behind the United States in social legislation and in state cOQtrol of activities-a fact which reflected our less advanced stage of development-the necessities of the present war have forced us to abandon our habit of reluctant imitation and to strike out on a course of our own whose boldness has been both startling and impressive to our neighbours. We have accepted the need for widespread state intervention to meet an external crisis. Perhaps we may come to recognize it as a more adequate answer to our internal problems than any provided by the pioneer mentality in a land where opportunities f~)f extensive . pioneering are virtually at an end. The pioneer has been the object of many panegyrics. The transformation of the continent of North America from a wilderness to a vigorous and complex civilization was made possible by the courage and the rugged endurance...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 117-120
Launched on MUSE
2015-07-01
Open Access
No
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