The Redistribution of Power
Away from Local Communities
and the Prospects for Its Return
Canada was settled mainly by farmers and fishermen who lived in scattered rural communities. In order to survive the rigours of life in a harsh climate, they helped one another in times of need. In Quebec mutual aid was always strengthened by the parish church; when the prairies were settled in the twentieth century, by cooperative action; and in the mining towns, by union activities.
Desrosiers (1979) has explained how, on the farms, family members of all ages were expected to earn their keep and to help each other with their tasks. Gradually with industrialization young adults moved into the cities to set up their own families and to look for paid employment. But then there was only one breadwinner for each family and if he were ill, disabled or out of work there was no extended family to fall back on. Neighbours continued to help one another as much as they were able, but their resources were insufficient to deal with all the problems which arose.
In the cities philanthropists established charity agencies to help the poor and the sick, and when these were unable to provide enough support, the municipalities would offer relief to the poor. Professionals often gave free services to those who could not afford to pay.
On the prairies farmers were influenced by the cooperative movement (which had started in Great Britain). They worked together to solve marketing problems and used their elected municipal governments to establish programs to support educational, health and social welfare services in their communities.