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Banner: Moving Here, Staying Here. The Canadian Immigrant Experience

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Free From Local Prejudice
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A Depressing Period


by Angèle Alain and Sylvie Tremblay, Library and Archives Canada

It certainly took tremendous courage for French Canadians to leave Canada and start a new life in a foreign country. They had many reasons for doing so, ranging from a rapid natural population increase and a limited amount of arable land, to prolonged economic crises and the greater availability of day jobs in the factories of New England's major urban centres. Some emigrants, however, were swayed by the repatriation arguments and returned to Canada. Arthème Morin and his wife Ezilda Fortin were among them.

Arthème married Ezilda in 1885 in the parish of Saint-Cyrille-de-l'Islet in Quebec. Ezilda was part of a large family; her eldest sister, Marie, and her husband Arthur were drawn to New England and its promise of employment. Arthème and Ezilda emigrated to Brunswick, Maine, with Marie and her young family. They all lived in a small house near Cabot Cotton Mill, where Arthème found work. In 1892, Arthème bought a small plot of land on Highland Road in Brunswick. Over the years, he bought other properties and went into dairy farming. Between 1886 and 1907, Ezilda gave birth to 15 children, three of whom died at an early age. Everyone in the family not only helped with the farming, but also worked in the city's textile mills.

When the United States entered a recession in the early 1900s, free land in the Canadian West suddenly became very attractive. In 1911, in the hope of offering his family a better quality of life, Arthème and his elder sons left Brunswick for Saskatchewan. They were joined by Ezilda and the rest of the family, except their daughter Anne Marie, who joined a religious community in Maine. While Arthur cleared his farmland in Hodgeville, Ezilda and the younger members of the family lived in Moose Jaw so that the children could attend school. In 1927, Arthème sold his farm and bought a larger one in Gravelbourg, which he operated until 1934. He retired at age 68 and moved with Ezilda to his son's home in Manitoba, where they lived until they died, Arthème in 1940 and Ezilda in 1943.

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