Quebec History Marianopolis College

Date Published:
June 2005

L’Encyclopédie de l’histoire du Québec / The Quebec History Encyclopedia


Farmers' Movement in Canada


[This article was written in the 1930's and published in 1948; for the precise citation, see the end of the document.]

Farmers' Movements. The organization of farmers for political and economic purposes has played an important part in recent Canadian history; and from an early date farmers have shown in Canada a tendency toward organizing themselves in groups. The first form of organization was "agricultural societies." By 1790 such societies had been formed in Nova Scotia, in New Brunswick, and at Quebec ; the first agricultural society in Upper Canada was organized at Newark (Niagara-on-the-lake) in 1792; and an agricultural society was formed at Victoria, Vancouver island, in 1861. In Nova Scotia and Upper Canada government aid was given to these societies. About the middle of the nineteenth century these societies, gave place in some localities to smaller "farmers' clubs", which sprang up spontaneously in answer to the demand for the discussion of common problems. But neither the agricultural societies nor the farmers' clubs had before 1867 any connection one with another; and the influence they exerted was purely local. It was not until after 1867 that the first of those farmers' movements which was to exert an influence on Canadian history made its appearance. This was the Grange movement, which invaded. Canada from the United States in 1872, and resulted in the formation of the Dominion Grange in 1874. This was followed by the Patrons of Industry, an organization which came into Ontario from Michigan in 1887, and spread to Quebec and the Canadian West. Unlike the Dominion Grange, the Patrons (as they came to be called) entered the political arena; and for a time they formed a third party in the Ontario legislature. They even invaded the Canadian House of Commons; but, in the general elections of 1896 they suffered a severe reverse, and thereafter the influence of the Patrons of Industry waned. By the end of the century both the Grange and the Patrons of Industry had ceased to be effective forces in Canadian politics.


With the dawn of the twentieth century, new organizations came into being. In 1902 there was formed the Farmers' Association of Ontario, which developed ultimately into the United Farmers of Ontario; and early in the same year there came into existence an organization of the grain growers of eastern Assiniboia which was the forerunner of the grain growers' associations of western Canada. The Territorial Grain Growers' Association was formed shortly afterwards, and the Manitoba Grain Growers' Association in 1903. In 1906 the farmers of Alberta united under the name of the United Farmers of Alberta. In 1914 the various farmers' organizations in Ontario were brought into one fold by the formation of the United Farmers of Ontario; and in 1917 the United Farmers of British Columbia organized themselves. In 1918 the United Farmers of New Brunswick came into existence; in 1919, the United Farmers of Quebec ; and in 1920, the United Farmers of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. This movement, the success of which was largely due to J. J. Morrison, the secretary of the  United Farmers of Ontario, had important results. In several provinces the United Farmers entered the political field. In 1919 the United Farmers captured a plurality in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, and formed a government under the premiership of E. C. Drury, which lasted until 1923; and in 1922 the United Farmers of Alberta obtained a majority in the Alberta legislature which inaugurated a tenure of power which lasted until the Social Credit party came into power in September, 1935. An attempt was made to transform the Farmers' party into the "Progressive party"; but this attempt failed. Since the defeat of the Drury government in Ontario in 1923, the farmers' movement has suffered an eclipse, save in Alberta; but a large part of the support which formerly went to the farmers' movements has now been diverted toward the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation.


See L. A. Wood, A history of farmers' movements in Canada (Toronto, 1924).

Source  : W. Stewart WALLACE, ed., The Encyclopedia of Canada, Vol. II, Toronto, University Associates of Canada, 1948, 411p., p. 319-320.


© 2005 Claude Bélanger, Marianopolis College