Canada – Public Lands

The Public Lands in Canada are those which are administered by the Dominion Government and are called ” Dominion Lands ” and those which are at the disposal of the several Provincial Governments and are known as ” Crown Lands.”

Dominion Lands are situated in Western Canada and what is known as the Railway Belt in British Columbia, and are dealt with under the provisions of the Dominion Lands Act. The system of survey which has been adopted is to lay out the lands in quadrilateral townships, each containing thirty-six sections of about a mile square or 640 acres ; the sections are situated and numbered as shown in the diagram given on the next page.

The Townships are numbered in regular order northerly from the International boundary or 49th parallel of latitude and lie in Ranges numbered, in Manitoba, east and west, from a meridian line called the Principal Meridian, drawn northerly from the 49th parallel, and in Saskatchewan and Alberta, in Ranges numbered westerly from other initial meridians styled the Second, Third and Fourth Meridian and so on, according to their order westward from the Principal Meridian.

Each section (640 acres) in a township is subdivided into half sections (320 acres) and quarter-sections of 160 acres. A quarter-section is again divided to quarter sections called ” legal sub-divisions.” The thirty-six sections in a township are numbered from 1 to 36.

All surveyed agricultural Dominion lands (excepting School Lands sections 11 and 29, and Hudson’s Bay Company’s Lands section 8 and three-quarters and sometimes the whole of 26) are open to entry for home-stead purposes by settlers if not disposed of and not reserved or occupied. Islands which are Dominion lands in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta are, however, reserved from entry and an entry does not include mineral or water rights. Moreover a quarter-section containing more than twenty-five acres of merchantable timber is not open to entry.

Under the Homestead regulations every person who is the sole head of a family and every male who has attained the age of eighteen and is a British subject, or declares his intention to become one, is entitled to obtain entry for a homestead to the extent of one quarter-section (160 acres), on payment of an entry fee of ten dollars. A widow having minor children of her own dependent on her for support may make entry as the sole head of a family, but a widow who is remarried thereby ceases to be the sole head of a family, and is not eligible to make entry. Application may be either at the land agency for the district in which the land is situate, or at the office of a sub-agent authorised to transact business in the district, and must be made by the applicant in person, although in certain cases application by proxy is permitted. The entry entitles the holder to occupy and cultivate the land to the exclusion of any other person, the title remaining in the Crown until a patent is issued. The conditions to be complied with before a patent is issued comprise :

(1) At least six months’ residence in each year during a term of three years.

(2) The value of the entrant’s house upon the home stead shall be at least 300 dollars. Residence means actual and bona fide residence in a dwelling-house by the entrant in person upon the homestead, or in accordance with the vicinity provisions of the Act. A homesteader may, if he so desires, perform the required residence duties by living on a farm owned solely by him, not less than eighty acres in extent, in the vicinity of his home-stead. The term ” vicinity ” means not more than nine miles in a direct line. If a father, mother, son, daughter, brother or sister of a homesteader has permanent residence on a farm owned solely by him or her, not less than eighty acres in extent, in the vicinity of the home-stead, such homesteader may perform his own residence duties by living with such relative as the case may be.

The practice of the Canadian Department of the Interior which administers the Act, has been to require a settler residing on his homestead to bring a total of at least fifteen acres under cultivation. A settler performing residence duties by living in the vicinity of his homestead, either with parents, or with son, daughter, brother or sister, or on land owned by him must bring a total of at least thirty acres of the homestead under cultivation, and a reasonable proportion of the cultivation must in all cases be done in each year. All entries made prior to June 1st, 1908, are governed by this practice, but the following change has come into force since that date : —

A homesteader who resides on his homestead is required to break a total of at least thirty acres of the homestead (of which twenty must be cropped) before applying for his patent, and a reasonable proportion of the cultivation duties must be done during each year. If the duties are performed under the regulations permitting residence in the vicinity, the total required to be broken will be at least fifty acres of which thirty must be cropped.

A homesteader is allowed six months from the date of entry in which to perfect the same by taking possession of the land and beginning his residence duties in connection therewith.

In the event of the death of an entrant for a homestead before the completion of the requirements for the obtaining of letters patent therefor, his legal representative shall only be required to fulfil the conditions as to the erection of a habitable house and as to cultivation in order to entitle him to obtain letters patent, after the expiration of three years from the date of the entry for the homestead ; or the legal representative may assign the homestead to a person eligible to obtain a homestead entry ; and the assignee shall, after

(1) the expiration of three years from the date of entry for the homestead ;

(2) holding the homestead for his own exclusive use and benefit from the date of the assignment, and

(3) completing the residence and cultivation requirements in the same manner as the person who made the entry would have been required to complete them, be entitled to letters patent for homestead. The assignee does not thereby exhaust his homestead right.

If a homesteader dies before perfecting entry by commencement of residence within six months, the entry becomes liable to cancellation. The Department may, however, on application, extend the time for the performance of the duties if the legal representatives have taken out letters of administration or have them in course of preparation with the intention of performing the required duties ; but not in the case of a settler who has obtained a homestead entry by proxy unless he had personally appeared at the Agency or commenced actual residence on the homestead.

In the event of any person who obtained entry for a homestead becoming insane or mentally incapable, and, by reason of such insanity or mental incapacity, unable to complete the requirements necessary for the obtaining of letters patent therefor, the guardian or committee of the said person, or any person who, in the event of his death, would be entitled as his legal representative to do so, shall only be required to fulfil the conditions as to the erection of a habitable house, and as to cultivation before the issue of letters patent ; but the letters patent shall not issue until the expiration of three years from the date of entry.

If a homesteader becomes insane or mentally incapable before perfecting entry by commencement of residence within six months, the entry becomes liable to cancellation. The Department may, however, on application, extend the time for the performance of duties by the guardian or legal representative, but not in the case of a proxy entrant unless he had personally appeared at the Agency or commenced actual residence on the homestead.

In addition to the privilege of homesteading which is granted, under the conditions stated, to settlers, Purchased Homesteads may be acquired under the conditions provided in the Dominion Lands Act within the area bounded on the south by the International Boundary line, on the north by the north line of the 44th township, on the east by the line of the Minneapolis, St. Paul and Sault Ste Marie Railway from the International boundary to Canadian Pacific Railway main line to the 3rd Principal Meridian, then by the 3rd Principal Meridian to the north line of the 44th township ; on the east by the west line of Range 26, west of the fourth Meridian, and from the International Boundary to the Calgary and Edmonton Railway line, then by the Calgary and Edmonton Railway line to the north line of the 44th township.

Pre-emptions may be acquired within the same area except that, in townships in which any railway company has taken eight sections as part of its land grant, no pre-emption may be taken.

A person is eligible to preempt any available quarter section lying alongside the homestead, or separated therefrom only by a road allowance, on payment of a fee of ten dollars if he obtains entry for a homestead under the Act of 1908 and continues to own and reside upon the land included therein, and does not hold, or has not assigned his right to, or has not received patent for a pre-emption under that or any previous Act ; or has obtained entry for a homestead under the provisions of Chapter 55 of the Revised Statutes, 1906, or any previous Act in that behalf, and continues to own the land included therein, and does not hold, or has not assigned his right to, or has not received patent for a pre-emption under the present or any previous Act.

The homesteader becomes entitled to patent for his pre-emption by

(1) Residing for six months in each of six years on either his homestead or pre-emption. If the residence duties for the homestead and pre-emption are performed upon the pre-emption the entrant will not become entitled to a patent for his homestead until he becomes entitled to a patent for his pre-emption.

(2) Erecting a dwelling-house on his homestead or preemption.

In the case of entries granted on or after February 1st, 1909, it is required that the house shall be worth at least 300 dollars before application for patent is made.

(3) Cultivating eighty acres of either the homestead or preemption, or both, a reasonable proportion of which must be done each year.

(4) Paying for the preemption at the rate of three dollars an acre. One third of the purchase money must be paid three years after date of entry, and the balance in five equal instalments. Interest at five per cent, is payable at the end of each year from the date of the pre-emption entry.

A patent can be claimed at any time after completion of the duties on paying the price in full and unless claimed within eight years the pre-emption may be cancelled.

The provision of the Dominion Lands Act permitting residence on land in the vicinity of the homestead does not apply to pre-emption.

A homesteader in a township not available for preemption may apply for a preemption entry on an adjoining township, the lands of which are available for pre-emption entry, if his homestead joins, as provided, the land for which he desires to make such pre-emption entry.

If application for preemption entry is made for a quarter section of land lying within a land district other than the one in which the applicant’s homestead is situated, the Agent of the district in which the pre-emption is situated shall receive the application, and file the same with such evidence as the applicant may be in a position to offer, and he shall withhold the issue of the receipt for entry until he has obtained from the Agent of the district in which the applicant’s homestead is situated, satisfactory proof that the applicant is the entrant for the land so claimed for the homestead, and that the entry is in good standing so far as his records show.

There is also, under the Dominion Lands Act, provision for Purchased Homesteads which may be acquired on any available lands on either odd or even numbered sections south of township 45, east of the Calgary and Edmonton Railway and the west line of Range 26, and west of the Third Meridian and the ” Soo ” Railway line.

Anyone is eligible to obtain entry as a Purchased Homestead any available quarter section open for entry, on payment of a fee of ten dollars, who holds a homestead entry under the provisions of the Dominion Lands Act, 1908, or under any previous Act in that behalf, but owing to the absence of available land adjoining his homestead is prevented from exercising his right of pre-emption entry ; or has obtained entry for a homestead for which he has received or become entitled to letters patent or has otherwise exhausted his homestead right, but has not received entry or patent for a pre-emption or assigned his right thereto, and may, after the issue of patent for his homestead, or upon completing the requirements requisite to obtaining letters patent therefor to the satisfaction of the Agent of Dominion Lands for the district, as provided by the Act, or by regulation or order made thereunder, obtain entry as a Purchased Homestead for any available quarter section open for entry on payment of a fee of ten dollars.

A widow who has secured homestead entry as the sole head of a family and has afterwards remarried is not eligible to make a Purchased Homestead entry. No person who has received a patent for a Purchased Home-stead may receive entry for another. The applicant for entry for a Purchased Homestead must make a statutory declaration as to his previous Homestead right and as to his present right to a Purchased Homestead on the form provided. If the applicant for a Purchased Homestead has not received patent for his Free Home-stead, the recommendation by the Land Agent of his application for patent will be considered sufficient evidence of completion of his duties on his Free Homestead to warrant his entry for a Purchased Homestead. An entrant for Purchased Homestead before the issue of patent for his Free Homestead who fails to secure patent for his Free Homestead, shall thereby forfeit his entry for a Purchased Homestead. Entry for a Purchased Homestead cannot be made by proxy. A person whose application for patent has been recommended by the Agent may be allowed to enter for a Purchased Home-stead, although there may be land alongside his Home-stead available for pre-emption entry. But if he so elects to enter for a Purchased Homestead he shall not, unless such entry is cancelled, be given entry for a pre-emption.

The Homestead purchaser becomes entitled to patent by

(1) Residing for six months in each of three years upon the Purchased Homestead.

(2) Erecting upon it a habitable house of a value of at least 300 dollars.

(3) Cultivating fifty acres of the land, a reasonable proportion of which must be done in each of three years, during two of which the breaking must be in crop.

(4) Paying for it at the rate of three dollars an acre.

If the entrant for a Purchased Homestead resides upon his own farm of not less than eighty acres within nine miles of the Purchased Homestead, exclusive of the width of road allowance crossed in the measurement, residence upon such farm is accepted as residence upon his Purchased Homestead. Residence with relatives in the vicinity is not allowed.

Payment must be made, one third at the date of entry and the balance in five equal annual instalments with interest at five per cent. from the date of entry ; but payment may be made in full at any time after completion of the duties and patent demanded. Default in payment of interest or of instalments when due renders the Purchased Homestead liable to cancellation. If patent is not applied for within five years from date of entry, the entry may be cancelled. If an entrant for a Purchased Homestead fails in any year to fulfil the requirements of the Act in respect thereto, the Minister may cancel the entry and in his discretion cause to be refunded any moneys paid on account thereof, but no refunds can be made before six months have elapsed from the date of entry. Refunds of interest or of entry fees cannot be made.

Volunteers domiciled in Canada at the time of enlistment, who served with the British forces in South Africa during 1899 to 1902, or who arrived there, but owing to the close of the war, were not on active service, are entitled to a land grant of two adjoining sections of Dominion lands available for homestead entry in Western Canada subject to certain conditions. Enlisted female nurses have the same rights as volunteers. The warrants in favour of those entitled to such grants of land are issued by the Department of Militia and Defence and forwarded for record purposes to the Department of the Interior from which quarter the grantees obtain them to enable them to make entry, the last date for which is December 31st, 1910. No entry or patent fees are chargeable, and the location of this scrip either by the volunteer or his substitute does not exhaust the right of homestead entry to which such volunteer, or his substitute may otherwise be entitled.

South African Volunteer scrip is not applicable on Dominion land within the Railway Belt in British Columbia.

In accordance with the terms of certain Acts of Parliament, scrip is issued in settlement of the rights of half-breeds who, because of their Indian blood, are permitted to share in the Indian right to lands in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta, which scrip may be either ” money scrip ” or ” land scrip,” as the half-breed may have chosen at the time of issue.

A half-breed who is entitled to scrip in his or her own right and who chooses to take money scrip receives scrip having a face value 240 dollars in payment to the Government for Government land.

When a half-breed entitled to scrip has died before the scrip was issued, the scrip to which he was entitled is divided amongst his heirs. Such scrip may therefore be for lesser amounts than 240 dollars.

Money scrip is accepted from bearer for payment for Government land. There is no registration of transfer of right in money scrip.

A half-breed who is entitled to scrip in his own right and who chooses to take ” land scrip,” receives two scrips, one for 160 acres and the other for eighty acres of land.

No settlement duties are required in securing title to land upon which half breed land scrip has been applied, and patent may issue forthwith to the half-breed who has applied the land scrip or to the person to whom his right to the land has afterwards been assigned.

Under regulations which came into force in May, 1910, the petroleum and gas rights, which are the property of the Crown, in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, the North-West Territories, the Yukon Territory, and within the tract containing three and one-half million acres of land acquired by the Dominion Government from the province of British Columbia, and referred to in sub-section (b) of Section 3 of the Dominion Lands Act, may be leased to applicants at a rental of twenty-five cents an acre for the first year, and for each subsequent year a rental at the rate of fifty cents an acre, payable yearly in advance. The term of the lease shall be twenty-one years, renewable for a further term of twenty-one years, provided the lessee can furnish evidence satisfactory to the Minister of the Interior to show that during the term of the lease he has complied fully with the conditions of such lease and with the provisions of the regulations in force from time to time during the currency of the lease.

The term School Lands refers to those sections (11 and 29) in every township throughout the extent of the Dominion Lands which are set apart as an endowment in aid of education. These lands are administered by the Department of the Interior and are disposed of by sale at public auction, the sum realised being invested and the interest paid to the government of the province within which the lands are situated, towards the support of the schools.

Hudson’s Bay lands, which are also mentioned above, are those sections reserved to the Hudson’s Bay Company under the terms and conditions of surrender from the Company to the Crown, by which the former is entitled to one-twentieth of the land within the ” fertile belt.”