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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 44

Chapter VII. — Dominion Lands Act

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Chapter VII.

Dominion Lands Act.

The following is a summary of the Dominion Lands Act :

An Act was passed in 1874 (35 Vic. cap. 23, 37 Vic. cap. 19) amending and consolidating the laws and Orders in Council respecting the public lands of the Dominion, and was further amended by the Act 39 Vic. cap. 19.

The administration and management is effected through a Branch of the Department of the Minister of the Interior, known as "the Dominion Lands Office."

The surveys divide the land into quadrilateral townships containing thirty-six sections of one mile square in each, together with road allowances of one chain and fifty links in width, between all townships and sections.

Each section of 640 acres is divided into half sections of 320 acres, quarter sections of 160 acres, and half quarter sections of eighty acres. All townships and lots are rectangular. To facilitate the descriptions for letters patent of less than a half quarter section, the quarter sections composing every section in accordance with the boundaries of the same, as planted or placed in the original survey, shall be supposed to be divided into quarter sections, or forty acres. The area of any legal subdivision in letters patent shall be held to be more or less, and shall, in each case, be represented by the exact quantity as given to such subdivision in the original survey; provided that nothing in the Act shall be construed to prevent the lands upon the Red and Assiniboine Rivers, surrendered by the Indians to the late Earl of Selkirk, from being laid out in such manner as may be necessary in order to carry out the clause of the Act to prevent fractional sections or lands bordering on any rivers, lake, or other water course or public road from being divided; or such lands from being laid out in lots of any certain frontage and depth, in such manner as may appear desirable; or to prevent the subdivision of sections or other legal subdivisions into wood lots; or from describing the said lands upon the Red and Assiniboine Rivers, or such subdivisions of wood lots, for patent, by numbers according to plan of record, or by metes and bounds, or by both, as may seem expedient.

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Price of Dominion Lands.

Unappropriated Dominion lands may at present be purchased at the rate of 31 per acre; but no purchase of more than a section, or 640 acres, shall be made by the same person. Payments of purchases may be made in cash, excepting in the case of Railway land, or in scrip, at the option of the purchaser. The Minister of the Interior may, however, from time to time, reserve tracts of land, as he may deem expedient, for town or village plots, such lots to be sold either by private sale, and for such price as he may see fit, or at public auction. The Governor in Council may set apart lands for other public purposes, such as sites of market places, jails, court houses, places of public worship, burying grounds, schools, benevolent institutions, squares and for other like public purposes.

Free Grants Or Homestead Rights.

Free grants of quarter sections, 160 acres, are made to any male or female who is the head of a family, or to any male not the head of a family, who has attained the age of eighteen years, on condition of three years settlement, from the time of entering upon possession. A person entering for a homestead may also enter the adjoining quarter section if vacant as a pre-emption right and enter into immediate possession thereof, and on fulfilling the condition of his homestead, may obtain a patent for his pre-emption right on payment for the same at the rate of one dollar per acre. When two or more persons have settled on, and seek to obtain a title to, the same land, the homestead right shall be in him who made the first settlement. If both have made improvements, a division of the land may be ordered in such manner as may preserve to the said parties their several improvements.

Questions as to the homestead right arising between different settlers shall be investigated by the local agent of the division in which the land is situated, whose report shall be referred to the Minister of the Interior, for decision.

Every person claiming a homestead right from actual settlement must file his application for such claim with the local agent previously to such settlement, if in surveyed lands; if in unsurveyed lands, within three months after such land shall have been surveyed.

No patent will be granted for land till the expiration of three years from the time of entering into possession of it.

When both parents die, without having devised the land, and leave a child or children under age, it shall be lawful for the executors page 50 (if any) of the last surviving parent, or the guardian of such child or children, with the approval of a Judge of a Superior Court of the Province or Territory in which the lands lie, to sell the lands for the benefit of the infant or infants, but for no other purpose; and the purchaser in such a case shall acquire the homestead right by such purchase, and on carrying out the unperformed conditions of such right, shall receive a patent for the land, upon payment of the office fees, $10.

The title to lands shall remain in the Crown until the issue of the patent therefor, and such lands shall not be liable to be taken in execution before the issue of the patent.

If a settler voluntarily relinquishes his claim, or has been absent from the land entered by him for more than six months in any year, then the right to such land shall be forfeited.

A patent may be obtained by any person before three years, on payment of price at the date of entry, and making proof of settlement and cultivation for not less than twelve months from date of entry.

All assignments and transfer of homestead rights before the issue of the patent shall be null and void, but shall be deemed evidence of abandonment of the right.

These provisions apply only to homesteads and not to lands set apart as timber lands, or to those on which coal or minerals, at the time of entry, are known to exist.

Grazing Lands.

Unoccupied Dominion lands may be leased to neighbouring settlers for grazing purposes; but such lease shall contain a condition making such lands liable for settlement or for sale at any time during the term of such lease, without compensation, save by a proportionate deduction of rent, and a further condition by which, on a notice of two years, the Minister of the Interior may cancel the lease at any time during the term.

Unoccupied Dominion lands will be leased to neighbouring settlers for the purpose of cutting hay thereon, but not to the hindrance of the sale and settlement thereof.

Mining Lands.

As respects mining lands, no reservations of gold, silver, iron, copper or other mines or minerals will be inserted in any patent from the Crown, granting any portion of the Dominion lands. Any person may explore for mines or minerals on any of the Dominion public lands, surveyed or unsurveyed, and, subject to certain provisions, may purchase the same. As respects coal lands, they cannot be taken for homesteads.

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Timber Lands,

Provisions are made in the Act for disposing of the timber lands so as to benefit the greatest possible number of settlers, and to prevent any petty monopoly. In the subdivision of townships, consisting partly of prairie and partly of timber land, such of the sections as contain islands, belts, or other tracts of timber may be subdivided into such number of wood lots, of not less than ten and not more than twenty acres in each lot, as will afford one such wood lot to each quarter section prairie farm in such township.

The local agent, as settlers apply for homestead rights in it township, shall if required apportion to each quarter section one of the adjacent wood lots, which shall be paid for by the applicant at the rate of SI.00 per acre. When the claimant has fulfilled all requirements of the Act, a patent will issue to him for such wood lot.

Any homestead claimant who, previous to the issue of the patent, shall sell any of the timber on his claim, or on the wood-lot appertaining to his claim, to saw-mill proprietors or to any other than settlers for their own private use, shall be guilty of a trespass and may be prosecuted therefor, and shall forfeit his claim absolutely.

The word timber includes all lumber, and all products of timber, including firewood or bark.

The right of cutting timber shall be put up at a bonus per square mile, varying according to the situation and value of the limit, and sold to the highest bidder by competition, cither by tender or by public auction.

The purchaser shall receive a lease for 21 years, granting the right of cutting timber on the land, with the following conditions: To erect a saw mill or mills in connection with such limit or lease, of a capacity to cut at the rate of 1,000 feet broad measure in 24 hours, for every two and a half square miles of limits in the lease, or to establish such other manufactory of wooden goods, the equivalent of such mill or mills, and the lessee to work the limit within two years from the date thereof, and during each succeeding year of the term;

To take from every tree he cuts down all the timber fit for use, and manufacture the same into sawn lumber or some other saleable product;

To prevent all unnecessary destruction of growing timber on the part of his men, and to prevent the origin and spread of fires;

To make monthly returns to Government of the quantities sold or disposed of—of all sawn lumber, timber, cordwood, bark, etc., and the price and value thereof;

To pay, in addition to the bonus, an annual ground-rent of $2.00 per square mile, and further, a royalty of 5 per cent, on his monthly account;

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To keep correct books, and submit the same for the inspection of the collector of dues whenever required.

The lease shall be subject to forfeiture for infraction of any of the Conditions to which it is subject, or for any fraudulent return.

The lessee who faithfully carries out these conditions shall have the refusal of the same limits, if not required for settlement, for a further term not exceeding 21 years, on payment of the same amount of bonus per square mile as was paid originally, and on such lessee agreeing to such conditions, and to pay such other rates as may be determined on for such second term.

The standard measure used in the surveys on the Dominion is the English measure of length.

Dues to the Crown are to bear interest, and to be a lien on timber cut on limits. Such timber may be seized and sold in payment.

Any person cutting timber without authority on any Dominion lands, shall, in addition to the loss of his labour and disbursements, forfeit a sum not exceeding æ3 for each tree he is proved to have cut down. Timber seized as forfeited shall be deemed to be condemned, in default of owner claiming it within one month.

Form of Application For Homestead Right.

I,____of____do hereby apply' to be entered, under the provisions of the Act respecting the Public Lands of Dominion, for____quarter sections, numbers____and____, forming part of section number____of the Township of____, containing____acres, for the purpose of securing a homestead right in respect thereof.

Affidavit in Support of Claim For Homestead Right.

I, A B, do solemnly swear (or affirm, as (he case may be,) that I am over 18 years of age: that I have not previously obtained a homestead under the provisions of the "Dominion Lands Acts; that the land in question belongs to the class open for homestead entry; that there is no person residing or having improvements thereon; and that my application is made for my exclusive use and benefit, and with the intention to reside upon and cultivate the said land. So help me God.

On making this affidavit and filing it with the local agent, and on payment to him of an office fee often dollars, he shall be permitted to enter the land specified in the application.

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Land Scrip.

Col. Dennis, the Surveyor Genera], gave the following statement in evidence before the Immigration and Colonization Committee, in the session of 1877 :—There are three kinds of scrip.

1. The certificates issued to soldiers for military services performed to the Dominion—in other words, Military Bounty Land Warrants.

2. Similar certificates arc issued by the authority of law for services rendered to the Government in the North-West Mounted Police.

These two certificates, if located by the owner, may only be entered in quarter sections of land, 160 acres, intact.

A number of these warrants, however, may be acquired by any individual and may be used to pay for land in the same way as cash.

Both military and police warrants may be purchased and are assignable, and whoever holds them for the time being, under a proper form of assignment, can exercise full ownership over them, cither in the locating or paying for land; but the first assignment from the soldier or policeman, as the case may be, must be endorsed on the back of the warrant.

No affidavit is necessary where the assignment is endorsed, but the execution of the assignment must be witnessed, either by a Commissioner for taking affidavits or by a Justice of the Peace.

Any subsequent assignment may be upon a separate paper, but must be regularly attested before a Commissioner, and accompany the warrant in its transmission to the Land office.

3. The third kind of scrip is that issued to the half-breed heads of families and to old settlers in the Province, under recent Acts.

A claim against the Government for lands may, by law, be committed by an issue of scrip which would be in form similar to that issued to the Half-breed heads of families and old settlors before mentioned.

This scrip is a personalty, and there is no assignment thereof necessary to transfer the ownership. The bearer for the time being is held to be the owner, and we accept it in the Dominion Lands Office in payment for Dominion lands, the same as cash.

The Surveyor-General stated further, in answer to a question, that land scrip cannot be used in payment of the half-breeds claims: and explained that the lands set apart for half-breeds, under the Manitoba Act, was an absolute grant to the children. The extent to which lands belonging to minors will be tied up will depend greatly upon whether steps be taken to appoint trustees who would be able to make sales, or upon such other measure as the Government might see fit to adopt, with the view of bringing these lands into the market.

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The only other reserves in the Province are those of the Mennonitcs, which are rapidly filling up. There is still a very considerable extent of excellent land in the Province now available for settlement, but it can easily be understood the people who have been going into the Province for the last four or five years have selected the most favorable locations, and, consequently, the most of the good land in those localities have been taken up. The lands remaining, although generally desirable, are not so conveniently situated.

Col. Dennis further stated in answer to questions: The Province of Manitoba contains nearly nine millions of acres.

The Railway reserve contains about 1,900,000 acres, and the Mennonite townships about 500,000 acres.

The Hudson Bay Co.'s one-twentieth contains about 430,000 acres.

There are granted for school purposes two whole sections, or 1,280 acres, being sections 11 and 29 in each township, which are, by law, dedicated throughout the whole North-West for educational purposes, and the grant amounts in Manitoba to 400,000 acres.

In Manitoba the greatest quantity of land available for settlement is in the west and south-west.

Miles of railway located in the Province are about 158; the main line of the Canada Pacific Railway about 77, and the Pembina Branch about 81 miles.

Road allowances are laid out on the ground in the townships in Manitoba which correspond to concessions and side roads in Ontario and Quebec. Each section or square mile there is surrounded by an avenue of 99 feet, or a chain and a half, in width, resulting in a magnificent dedication to the public for highways.

Q. Are any of the lands fronting on the main river in Manitoba available for settlement?—None, with the exception of lands on the Assiniboine River, above Prairie Portage. As a rule, the lands on the Red River and Assiniboine River were laid out and settled upon, previous to the transfer, in narrow frontages, running back two miles, called the "Settlement Belt," and the township lands available for sale and settlement lie outside of this Belt. There are many unoccupied lots in the Settlement Bolt, but people are not allowed to enter them, as they are considered to possess a special value. The intention is, shortly, to offer the unoccupied lots belonging to the Government, in the Settlement Belt, at public auction, at an upset price, with conditions of actual settlement upon the land.


If any person or persons undertake to settle any of the public lands of the Dominion free of expense to the Government, in the proportion of one family to each alternate quarter section, or not less page 55 than sixty-four families in any one township, under the Homestead provisions of the Act hereby amended, the Governor in Council may withdraw any such township from public sale and general settlement; and may, if he thinks proper, having reference to the settlement so effected and to the expense incurred by such person or persons in procuring the same, order the sale of any other and additional lands in such township to such person or persons at a reduced price and may make all necessary conditions and agreements for carrying the same into effect.

The expenses, or any part thereof, incurred by any person or persons for the passage money or subsistence in bringing out an immigrant, or for aid in erecting buildings on the homestead, or in providing farm implements or seed for such immigrant, may if so agreed upon by the parties, be made a charge on the homestead of such immigrant, and in case of such immigrant attempting to evade such liability by obtaining a homestead entry outside of the land withdrawn under the provision of the next preceding section, then and in such case, the expense incurred on behalf of such immigrant, as above, shall become a charge on the homestead so entered, which, with interest thereon, must be satisfied before a patent shall issue for the land: provided as follows:

(a.)That the sum or sums charged for the passage money and subsistence of such immigrant shall not be in excess of the actual cost of the same as proved to the satisfaction of the Minister of the Interior;
(b.)That an acknowledgment by such immigrant of the debt so incurred shall have been filed in the Dominion Lands Office;
(c.)That, in no case, shall the charge for principal money advanced against such homestoad exceed in amount the sum of two hundred dollars;
(d.)That no greater rate of interest than six percent, per annum shall be charged on the debt so incurred by such immigrant.

Forest Tree Culture.

Any person, male or female, being a subject of Her Majesty by birth or naturalization, and having attained the age of eighteen years shall be entitled to be entered for one quarter-section or less quantity of unappropriated Dominion lands as a claim for forest tree planting.

Application for such entry shall be made in the forms prescribed in the Dominion Lands' Act, which may be obtained from the local agent, and the person applying shall pay at the time of applying an office fee of ten dollars for which he or she shall receive a receipt and page 56 also a certificate of entry, and shall thereupon be entitled to enter into possession of the land.

No patent shall issue for the land so entered until the expiration of six years from the date of entering into possession thereof; and any assignment of such land shall be null and void, unless permission to make the same shall have been previously obtained from the Minister of the Interior.

At the expiration of six years the person who obtained the entry, or, if not living, his or her legal representative or assigns shall receive a patent for the land so entered, on proof to the satisfaction of the Local Agent, as follows :—

1. That eight acres of the land entered had been broken and prepared for tree planting within one year after entry, an equal quantity during the second year, and sixteen additional acres within the third year after such date :—

2. That eight acres of the land entered had been planted with forest trees during the second year, an equal quantity during the third year, and sixteen additional acres within four years from the date of entry, the trees so planted not being less than twelve feet apart each way :—

3. That the above area, that is to say, one-fifth of the land, has, for the last two years of the term, been planted with timber, and that the latter has been regularly and well cultivated and protected from the time of planting. The entry of a quarter section for preemption in connection with homestead may be substituted in whole or part for one for tree planting.