Dominion Lands Policy
A simple, effective survey system divided the arable prairie lands into square townships, each comprising 36 sections of 640 acres (259 ha), with the basic homestead comprising one 160 acre (64.75 ha) quarter section.
Dominion Lands PolicyWhen the Canadian government acquired RUPERT'S LAND from the Hudson's Bay Co and granted provincial status to Manitoba in 1871, it intended to use western natural resources and lands to promote western settlement and RAILWAY construction. Specific HOMESTEAD policies were devised to encourage settlers intending to establish themselves. The Dominion Lands Act of 1872, modelled on American homestead legislation, provided the legal authority under which lands were to be given to intending settlers in return for the payment of a small $10 fee and the performance of specified settlement duties - eg, building a habitable residence and cultivating a certain area annually.
Dividing Prairie Lands into Townships
A simple, effective survey system divided the arable prairie lands into square townships, each comprising 36 sections of 640 acres (259 ha), with the basic homestead comprising one 160 acre (64.75 ha) quarter section. Under the terms whereby Rupert's Land had been acquired, the Hudson's Bay Co was entitled to retain possession of 1/20th of the land. That meant that the company received the same for 2 (or 1¾) sections in each township. Two sections in each township were reserved for the support of education, and a variety of grazing, haying and quarrying leases were available for lands not yet claimed for homesteading.
The Pacific railway, regarded as a national necessity, was to be financed through an elaborate system of land subsidies. Since it was not possible to sell most of the lands before the railway was built, when large sums were needed to pay for the construction costs the federal government authorized the issuance of land grant bonds and also provided substantial cash subsidies. Once the Canadian Pacific Railway was completed, the desire to open new areas to settlement and to bring in more settlers resulted in the granting of land to various COLONIZATION COMPANIES, which were then expected to bring out settlers, construct needed branch lines and provide other assistance needed to establish new agricultural communities in the West.
In the 3 decades after 1870, settlement on the prairies was slow, but early in the 20th century it advanced rapidly. Prairie politicians regarded federal control over western Dominion lands and resources as an unfair intrusion into areas clearly given to provincial jurisdiction in the BRITISH NORTH AMERICA ACT. Negotiations undertaken to transfer control of the remaining western lands and resources to the provincial governments were completed in 1930. Thus ended the 60-year existence of Dominion lands.
See also PRAIRIE WEST.
John. A. Eagle, The Canadian Pacific Railway and the Development of Western Canada, 1896-1914 (1989); J.B. Hedges, The Federal Railway land Subsidy Policy of Canada (1934) and Building the Canadian West, The Land and Colonization Policies of the Canadian Pacific Railway (1939); C. Martin, "Dominion Lands" Policy (1938); Irene Spry and Bennet McCardle, Records of the Department of the Interior and Research Concerning Canada's Western Frontier Settlement, The Records of the Department of the Interior (1993).