order to attract farmers to Canada’s western prairie region,
the government implemented homestead legislation in 1868 which
provided free land to immigrant settlers. In 1872, this legislation
was revised and called the Dominion Lands Act. This act gave a
free quarter-section of land, or 160 acres, to immigrants to tempt
them to settle in Canada. This policy met with some success as
several hundred thousand immigrants took advantage of the government’s
offer. Posters advertised large, attractive sections of free land
available to those who wished to come to Canada. This proved to
be an offer that many people in unfortunate circumstances in other
countries could not refuse.
1882, the Canadian government granted large blocks of high-quality
land to the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) to sell to possible
immigrants. The Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) was also allowed
this same right and was able to profit through the sale of land.
These companies were slow to select the land intended for resale.
In the 1890s, the government had to force them to do so. As a
result, much of the premier land in western Canada remained undeveloped
until this time.
immigrants arrived in Canada, they often chose to purchase land from
the CPR and the HBC, rather than receive free land from the government.
The purchase of this land proved to be better for immigrants in the
long run. This was because the government homestead land was poor,
difficult to develop, and often led to failure and financial ruin.
mid-1890s was not only a time of change for Canada’s homestead
policy, but it was also a time when the country’s entire immigration
policy became much more restrictive and exclusionary.