Don’t be ashamed of our colonial past

Should we be ashamed of our colonial past? I would hope not.
On my mother’s side of the family, her grandfather immigrated to Sprague, Man. from Norway and started to farm, clearing land and planting crops.
On my father’s side, both my grandmother and grandfather were immigrants from Scotland who eventually ended up near Biggar, Sask. We have a photograph of my Grandmother Cumming in front of a sod hut that became their farm.
Both sides of my family sought a better life than the one they experienced in their native countries.
On my wife’s side of the family, part of her background is that her relatives were Empire Loyalists who left the United States following the American Revolution and chose to settle in Upper Canada.
Marnie’s grandfather’s side of the family came from Scotland and they farmed near Elmira (Marnie’s grandfather later became the agriculture rep for Grey County).
In 1853, the Legislative Assembly of the Colony of Canada passed the 1853 Public Lands Act with the promise of land in central Ontario and eastern Ontario to settlers who came to clear it. The lands were covered in forests and attracted immigrants.
The Legislative Assembly of the Colony of Canada approved the financing of roads for agricultural purposes and within 20 years, more than 1,600 miles of roads were provided for land access.
Some of those roads went up into the Canadian Shield, where farming proved to be difficult, but the sawing of trees into lumber was profitable.
At the same time, the new federal government soon focused on building a railway across Canada, connecting the richer farmlands of Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta with the rest of Canada and attracting even more immigrants.
Several of the displaced Métis from the Red River Rebellion at Fort Garry immigrated to what is now Rainy River District and took up homesteads along the Rainy River. Many other settlers from southern Ontario, as well as England, Scotland, and Ireland, arrived in the district by steamship down from Rat Portage (now Kenora).
The promise of free land for farming was attractive to the settlers. The land had to be cleared and much of the timber was floated on the river to Beaver Mills and sawn into lumber.
The major road of the time was the river.
At that time, there were no formal roads linking the communities. Roads eventually were linked to Fort Frances, La Vallee, Emo, Chapple, Boucherville, and Beaver Mills.
Yes, the name Colonization Road was applied to the road leading into McIrvine Township. It marked the connection of the homesteads on the west side of now Fort Frances and the eastern side with Couchiching First Nation.
Roads did expand, connecting farms to communities. Most communities were about 10 km apart, so that a farm family easily could walk from their farm to a store or post office and return in a day.
First Nations’ peoples also used the same roads to travel to communities year-round.
The roads connected everyone. Today, we continue to celebrate the arrival of immigrants to our country and their contribution to the growth and development of Canada.
To remove the name of Colonization Road in Fort Frances seeks to undo the contribution of countless settlers to Canada and Rainy River District.

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