Scots in Canada

Article excerpt

Jenni Calder, Scots in Canada (Edinburgh: Luath Press, 2003), vi + 185pp. Paper. £7.99. ISBN 1-8428-2038-9.

When CBC television held a contest in November 2004 for the greatest Canadian, three of the top ten were Scots. Tommy Douglas, founder of Medicare, born in Falkirk headed the list, while Sir John A. Macdonald, a native of Glasgow, came in at number eight, and Alexander Graham Bell, born in Edinburgh, at number nine. These results are a vivid illustration of the strong ties that still exist between Canada and Scotland, ties established during the waves of emigration that brought hundreds of thousands of Scots to Canada from the seventeenth to twentieth centuries.

Calder explores why so many Scots immigrated to Canada, how they became such a vital influence in their new country, and their experiences. Many were forced to leave under brutal circumstances, such as the Highland Clearances, but, as she points out, many also chose to go, in search of a better life.

They did not always find it. Although Canada offered destitute Scots the opportunity to own their own land in a country where hard work and initiative meant more than class or status, the fierce Canadian climate was a shock, even for those accustomed to the rigours of a Scottish winter. But despite the harshness of Canada's weather, the back-breaking toil required to settle the land, and the social isolation of the young nation's wilderness communities, Scots continued to come, leaving an indelible stamp on the culture of Canada. …