James Moffat Douglas

James Moffat Douglas

MAY 26, 1839 - AUGUST 19, 1920

James Moffat Douglas was born in 1839 in Linton Scotland to a farming father. The family emigrated to Upper Canada in 1851, where Douglas would later pursue a lengthy education in Toronto. His education trained Douglas to be a minister in the Presbyterian Church, and he also received brief medical training from King’s College. He worked for many years as a minister in Canada, where he married and had seven children, before Douglas became a missionary in India and acted as chaplain to many soldiers stationed there. After his return to Canada he worked for several more years as a minister before Douglas gave up the occupation to buy a plot of farm land near two of his sons.

When no longer bound by the neutral opinions needed by ministers, Douglas was able to join politics to assist his fellow farmers in Western Canada. After being elected into the House of Commons in 1896 he worked to eliminate the government’s high-tariff policy on grain and create more competition between railway companies to lessen the struggles faced by farmers in the prairies. In order to best serve his constituents, Douglas organized a group of Westerners and other MP’s to discuss how to relieve the burdens of prairie farmers.

The bill for which Douglas is best known insisted that there be a general inspector of the grain trade as well as made railways have loading platforms specifically for farmers. This would allow the farmers an opportunity to sell to someone other than the grain elevators which often under-paid the farmers. Both times the bill was proposed it died, but Douglas’s determination caused the creation of a commission to study the plights of western farmers which led to the Manitoba Grain Act in 1901.

Douglas left the House of Commons in 1904 but was soon brought into the Canadian Senate in 1906. While in the Senate Douglas debated familiar topics such as the grain industry, but also took positions on other important issues. He stood in opposition to a Conservative movement to limit the amount of immigration from India due to his time as a missionary there. Douglas also spoke on behalf of Sikh’s looking to help their families immigrate as well other policies regarding immigrants.

Douglas served both in the Senate and worked as a farmer until his death in 1920. He was dedicated to improving the lives of farmers on the prairies as well as the betterment of his government as a whole.

Celebrating 150 Years of Canadian Agriculture