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Hungarian Immigrants arriving in Canada
Image Courtesy of Collections Canada

How to use this guide: Fort Edmonton Park encourages you to use this guide as a starting point to exploring the park. You will find small tidbits of information as well as suggestions of buildings to visit and questions to ask the costumed interpreters you will find on site.

© 2012 By Sarah Hamilton

1846 Fort

Temporary Foreign Workers
Much of the fur trade was established before Canada became its own country in 1867. In 1846, western Canada was called Rupert’s Land, and was still a dependant British colony, exporting raw goods east and relying on Great Britain for commercial goods as well as political leadership. The Hudson’s Bay Company, which possessed most of Rupert’s Land, relied on Great Britain, not Canada for its charter.

A Job For Now: For men coming from eastern Canada and the British Isles to work for the Hudson's Bay Company, the vast distance between their homes and this new territory must have seemed daunting. A five-year contract with the Hudson’s Bay Company would pay about 17-20 pounds sterling/year, and included room and board. However, this work was not for everyone. Some Norwegian and Icelandic workers who came over to make a profit found the conditions too harsh, the pay too little, and the work too severe, and demanded to be taken back to their home countries.
A Penny Saved: For those who stayed, the promised wage often evaporated over the five-year period as workers purchased necessities from the Company, forcing many to renew their contracts for another five years. Consider today’s temporary foreign workers; what attracts them to Canada now? What promises or challenges do they face?

Find the Clerk in the trade store and ask him where he's from and when he'll get to go home. Under what conditions did he come to Rupert’s Land? Could he bring his wife? Would you do the same?


The York Boat (#19) and see how furs were transported up and down the North Saskatchewan River. How long would it take? Would you be willing to travel that distance for your work?

1885 Street

Go West, Young Man
In 1867, much of eastern Canada united under Confederation, and with Confederation came the construction of a national railway to geographically unite the country, including the newly added west.
A Key to Survival: In 1885, Edmonton, having been passed over for the railway in favour of Calgary, was facing the very real possibility of becoming deserted. Harsh winters, uncleared land, and the vast distance from all other settlements made attracting new settlers difficult. For Edmonton, it was key to draw immigrants for its own survival. The promise of free land and enterprise became key features to draw people to the west from eastern Canada and the United States. Few other groups were welcomed.

Not a Poor Man’s Game: Because of the long travel distance and the cost of starting your own business, immigration to western Canada appealed to many who were already on the continent. John A. McDougall and his wife Lovisa moved from Ontario, while the Egges, though originally from Scandinavia, moved north from the United States. Lovisa McDougall notes in her letters that enterprise in the west was not a poor man’s game and many young men who came west seeking their fortune left just as penniless as they came. Consider what you’d say if a friend expressed interest in moving to Edmonton: how would you describe living here?

Visit the Métis trapper next to Peter Erasmus’ House (#41) and find out how he feels about newcomers to the Edmonton area. Does it affect his livelihood?


Find the Dominion Lands Office (#46) and find out about the opportunity to own land in the west. What are some of the advantages and disadvantages of taking the government's deal? If you lived back in 1885, would you do it?

Thank you for visiting Fort Edmonton Park!

Historic Advertisement for Immigration

Image courtesy of Libraries and Archives Canada

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1905 Street

Growing a Nation and a City

With the election of Prime Minister Wilfred Laurier in 1896, Canada saw a golden era of immigration begin. Between 1896 and 1911, over 3 million immigrants made Canada their home. British and American immigrants were given preferential treatment, forming the largest group of immigrants during this period.
Pride and Prejudice: Canada saw influxes of immigrants from all over. Edmonton’s old Immigration Hall, which opened in 1906, documented new arrivals and was key in helping immigrants find respectable work and safe accommodation.
However, this is also a period of strong restrictions on who could immigrate to Canada and from where, influenced by both prejudice and a desire to grow the country. In 1911, 3400 Edmontonians signed a petition asking the federal government to stop allowing African-American immigrants to settle in western Canada. This is also the period in which Japanese and Chinese immigrants had a “head tax” levied against them which heavily restricted immigration.
Carrying on Traditions: For early arrivals from ethnic communities, establishing an identity in the burgeoning city was key; after Abraham and Rebecca Cristall arrived in 1893, one of their first orders of business included hiring a rabbi to bring Jewish culture and religion to Alberta’s scattered Jewish population.
ASK AN INTERPRETER about the residents on 1905 St who immigrated to Edmonton. Find Mr. and Mrs. Firkins (#55) or one of the bachelors living at Tent City (#52) and ask them what brought them to Edmonton. How are their experiences different from one another?

The Employment Office at the back of the Penny Arcade (#57), where many young immigrants would pay fees for the officer to find them work.

1920 Street

Birth of the ‘Cultural Mosaic’

Canada’s rapid growth through immigration lead to a moment of cultural identity crisis and it is during the latter part of this era that Canada formed its identity as a cultural “mosaic.”
A Menace to Society: During this period, immigrants from Scandinavia and Ukraine streamed into the province. Meanwhile, labour uprisings, such as the Winnipeg General Strike (1919) allowed the Canadian government to use newly passed deportation laws to deport immigrants who were suspected to cause ‘trouble’, or who were suspected to be Communist sympathizers.
Establishing an Identity: In Canada, and particularly Alberta, recent immigrants from Germany and Ukraine were moved into internment camps during the Great War. Once the war was over, it became all the more important for Ukrainian-Canadians to assert their cultural identity as well as their importance within Canada. Centres like the Ukrainian Bookstore (#68),Talmud Torah School and Al-Rashid Mosque (#77) were key to Edmonton’s ethnic communities, not just as markets of ethnic goods, but also serving as community meeting places. Do you have a local community meeting place in your own life?

Visit the Capitol Theatre (#70) and ask an interpreter about Edmonton’s burgeoning Jewish population. Where are they coming from? What kinds of businesses do they own? What sorts of projects is the community involved in during the 1920s?


Al Rashid Mosque (#77) to see how Edmonton’s early Muslim community worked with the larger Edmonton community to build North America’s first purpose-built mosque. Also visit Bill’s Confectionary (#72), whose owner, Bill Kazakos, was a member of Edmonton’s Greek community.

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