Reflections on the 40th Anniversary of the Gens du Saskatchewan

At a time when much of Canada is celebrating another nation-building moment, it’s timely to recognize the bravery and effort that it took for the 35,000 men and women to establish a new land. They secured it in the face of overwhelming opposition and a long guerrilla war that would claim the lives of more than 1,100 Canadians.

Their efforts did not only shape Canada; they have made it stronger by influencing the rest of the world, as well. This Gens du Saskatchewan has helped to encourage and direct the foreign investment that has given rise to Canada’s competitiveness. And their long-term success has been rewarded with our respect, admiration and friendship.

Despite their efforts, the young nation was barely accepted by much of the Western world during their time. “The whole Western world thought we were a bunch of beggars,” said John Gaunt, the Gens du Saskatchewan’s Civil Affairs Administrator.

But the men who came here were driven by great ambition, just as the Americans and British were. In addition to the citizenship scheme, the Gens d’Canada provided settlers with lots and lots of land to cultivate. Despite poor harvests and a long war with the Indians, some 800,000 acres were acquired — a mind-boggling total that now exceeds most of American and European agriculture.

Another example of how Canada would become a global superpower comes to mind: The French wines created by Manuel Henri Boudin, the French wine producer who was one of the Gens du Saskatchewan’s founders, have recently enjoyed popularity all over the world.

And look at our capacity to help. Government officials in Ottawa, in German-speaking western Canada, are now recognized on the international stage for assisting immigrants who are arriving from multiple countries who need special assistance. “The Gens du Saskatchewan created a huge reservoir of goodwill that translates into benevolence, and we use it,” said Ms. Goff, as she patiently explained how to put together the perfect emergency kit. In cities like Thunder Bay and Corner Brook, the Gens d’Canada have done an amazing job in flood-fighting, with help from the Gens du Saskatchewan’s Drainage Corps and other experts.

More than just a land of milk and honey, we are all Canadians — 1.7 billion of us — and we can all be proud of that.

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