Dominion Lands Act (Canada) (1872)
After acquiring Rupert’s Land and the Northwest Territories from the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1869, the Canadian government was eager to attract settlers to the region. A transcontinental railway had been promised in hopes of persuading British Columbia to join the Canadian confederation in 1871, yet it was unlikely to be a successful commercial venture without customers along the way. Also, there was concern about U.S. aggression in some border regions, particularly in the Red River region of Manitoba. As a result, Sir John Alexander Macdonald’s government fashioned the Dominion Lands Act and based it on the United States’s successful Homestead Act (1862). Despite the generous provisions, most European immigrant farmers chose to settle in the United States. Although homestead entries averaged about 3,000 annually between 1874 and 1896, there were in many years almost as many cancellations. In 1874, the government of Alexander Mackenzie amended the act to provide for sale of land at reduced prices to colonization companies that would develop lands at no cost to the government. Although many schemes were put forward, only one of 26 major efforts was successful. Ultimately, significant group settlements of Mennonites, Hungarians, Jews, and Icelanders were attracted to the Canadian west, but most came under specially negotiated group settlement programs.