April 13, 1928

LIB

Charles A. Stewart (Superintendent-General of Indian Affairs; Minister of Mines; Minister of the Interior)

Liberal

Mr. STEWART (Edmonton):

There is no crown land there, except some under lease.

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CON
LIB

Charles A. Stewart (Superintendent-General of Indian Affairs; Minister of Mines; Minister of the Interior)

Liberal

Mr. STEWART (Edmonton):

AH these

dire results are well known, by no better than by myself. I happened to be a member of the government of Alberta when this occurred, and I would be the last man in the world to allow settlers on any of the abandoned lands in that territory. I am quite willing now to abandon the idea and let it remain a closed area; I took this action only at the request of people interested, mainly in Saskatchewan. In that province there are same lands to-day held by ranchers and some crown lands surrounded by districts which have been successful through all these dry years, but rather than have a feeling that I was going to allow homesteading in any indiscriminate way, which is not the intention at all, I am quite willing to eliminate this section from the proposed' act. Therefore I would move that we strike out section 1 of the bill.

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UFA

Robert Gardiner

United Farmers of Alberta

Mr. GARDINER:

Instead of moving to eliminate this section of the bill I suggest that the minister allow it to stand and that he bring in some amendment which will give him the right to deal with the land in that particular area east of the Alberta boundary. There is no question that there are some good lands in that district which are capable of sustaining a population, and I think if an amendment is brought in which will give the minister power to allow homesteaders in that particular section it would be better for all concerned. I appreciate the attitude of the minister, and I think it would be better to let this stand as it is with that exception rather than bring back the former conditions.

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LIB

Frederick William Gershaw

Liberal

Mr. GERSHAW:

I am fairly well acquainted with the area under discussion, and I can assure the committee that the hon. member for Acadia and the leader of the opposition have not overdrawn their description of the conditions and hardships which were endured by the settlers in that district. I am particularly well acquainted with Many-berries. It was a prosperous community, and a busy town which was built up there is now almost completely deserted. It is a fact, however, that even in that part of the country a number of farmers have managed to live through all the bad years and are doing fairly well. The provincial governments have had very capable farm instructors living in that district and giving advice to the farmers there. I believe that many of the farmers who have lived there during all the bad years are in a position to continue to make use of that land and to support their families very well. Of course the school districts are disorganized, and the country is almost back into the ranching area, except that the ranchers have not the leases. But another plan might be worked out. A farmer who is there and has experience might do much better to get more land if some system of mixed farming could be carried out. I strongly support the suggestion that the member for Acadia has made.

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LIB

Charles A. Stewart (Superintendent-General of Indian Affairs; Minister of Mines; Minister of the Interior)

Liberal

Mr. STEWART (Edmonton):

For the

purpose of getting on with the bill I would prefer to strike out section 1, Mr. Chairman.

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Amendment agreed to.


LIB

John Frederick Johnston (Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committees of the Whole of the House of Commons)

Liberal

The CHAIRMAN:

Section 2 will now become section 1.

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UFA

Robert Gardiner

United Farmers of Alberta

Mr. GARDINER:

The proposal embodied in this section, now section 1 of the bill, has some merit. I believe that we have in western Canada to-day many people who through no fault of their own have lost their first homesteads and would be very glad in-

Dominion Lands Act

deed to, secure the opportunity to have a second one, and I am sure they would be very successful. However, there are one or two points in regard to this matter that I would like to draw to the attention of the committee. In the first place it is proposed that a person who has received his patent prior to the first day of January, 1928, may secure, at the discretion of the minister, entry for a second homestead. I do not think that provision is as it should be. Many patents have been issued, for instance during 1928, and the moment you give a person who has recently patented his first homestead the opportunity of getting a second, you make that person a speculator. If you put the date back to say 1922, or 1923 or 1924, as the case may be, it would not be so bad, but once you do this you will induce speculation [DOT] in homesteads, and that is not desirable. Then as to the discretion given the minister by this section, I do not think any minister should be placed in that position. It is not fair to him, to the house, or to the country as a whole. A second homestead should be granted to all alike or not at all; and no minister of the crown should have the power to determine whether or not a person is entitled to a second homestead. I cannot conceive of any condition where a person who has once received a patent to his homestead would not be just as entitled to a second as any other person. Such a condition would create a condition of partisanship which I think it is desirable to avoid, and therefore I suggest to the minister that this portion of the section be struck out.

The only large available portion of western Canada for homestead purposes is in the north of the three prairie provinces. At present the attention of the public in Canada, and as a matter of fact of the people of the *world, is directed towards the Peace River district, and quite a population is going in there. People are going in and homesteading 50, 60 or perhaps 100 miles from the railway; in fact I know of cases where they are homesteading 400 miles from the railway. After a time this parliament is going to be called upon to provide transportation facilities for those people, simply because of the fact that we have given the right to homestead that far from transportation facilities. I maintain it is not fair to people going into those areas. People intending to get homesteads are usually led to believe that the moment they go into a certain area and get reasonable developments they are going to receive transportation facilities. We have many cases of that sort in western Canada, and I could

mention thirty or forty places in Alberta which now require transportation facilities. That is a problem which we are up against every day. We find the Canadian National Railway, for instance, criticized because they do not meet that demand, but they cannot begin to meet it for even present day requirements. It seems to me that if we are going to give the privilege of second homesteads to people who have already homesteaded we should place a restriction upon the districts or upon the distance from transportation facilities. Let us thicken up our population to the greatest extent possible. AVe need population in the west even alongside our present railways, and if we give second homesteads we are going to burden ourselves and be in greater need of transportation facilities than we are even now. I think I brought this matter to the attention of the Minister of the Interior some years ago, as to allowing homesteads to be secured at great distances from transportation facilities, but as far as I can see nothing has been done in that regard. We have either to follow some well-considered policy in regard to giving these transportation facilities within a reasonable time, or to restrict the area within which these people may go; otherwise we will have greater trouble in the future than we have had in the past.

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LIB

Charles A. Stewart (Superintendent-General of Indian Affairs; Minister of Mines; Minister of the Interior)

Liberal

Mr. STEWART (Edmonton):

The mere

fact that you are giving a second homestead is not making the difficulty any greater, but new settlers coming in from the outside go into these outlying districts and will settle upon the land. The mere fact that, a few hundred people-because there will not be more than that^-may take advantage of this provision will not make the condition worse than it is at present. My hon. friend says he has mentioned this to me before, and it i3 a matter to which I have given a great deal of consideration. Twenty years ago, before my hon. friend came to Alberta, you could not stop the expansion of settlement; if you did not survey the land the people would go in and squat on it. An instance of that is seen at Fort Vermilion, 300 miles away. The mere fact that you put a boundary on settlement will not stop the expansion of settlement if there is good land to be found in the territory and people are willing to go into those outside districts. I am speaking in the light of actual experience in this matter, but the mere fact that we are giving this privilege to a few hundred of our own people will not make that condition any more serious than it is at present.

Dominion Lands Act

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LIB

Frank S. Cahill

Liberal

Mr. CAHILL:

I agree with the hon. member who, as I came in, was pointing out that the homesteading area should be restricted. That should have been done twenty-five years ago. The matter of which my hon. friend spoke is only a trifling one. If you do not allow people to take up homesteads in certain districts, if you give them to understand that they cannot get a patent in those districts, then you will not aggravate the conditions that we have had in the west for many years, whereby settlers have taken up homesteads many miles from railway facilities and later come to parliament asking for railway construction. The policy of the various governments for the last twenty-five years has been wrong in that regard. In the first place they encourage settlers to come to Canada and no regard is paid to them after they land in this country. If the settler is a Canadian, no regard is paid as to where he should settle. I know from my experience in the west that many people who came to Saskatchewan never got beyond the city of Saskatoon. They spent all their money in endeavouring to find a homestead in western Canada and they had to fish for themselves in Saskatoon, Regina, Moose Jaw, Calgary, or some other city in the west.

I am not so much opposed to the present measure, but it is tiftie that the government had some policy with regard to land settlement in Canada. Land settlement should be restricted to areas where they have already a railroad or where they will have one in the near future. We have advocates appearing all the time before the railway committee asking for railway construction in different parts of the country. This is a very expensive proposition; we are wasting not only the money of the people but the time of the settlers who are placed thirty, forty, fifty, sixty and in some cases a hundred miles from a railway. The land settlement question in Canada is one .which should have the careful consideration of the department, the government and the house, because we have not now any blocks of land to offer to settlers where they can have any assurance of railway facilities within the near future, unless some section of land is blocked out and offered to the public either free or at a price with the understanding that railway facilities will be provided.

As you go through western Canada you find that railways have been built without any regard whatever to a fixed policy. Homesteaders have taken up land in one place and other people have bought land in others. Lands purchased in districts adjacent to railways are in many cases being held out of use.

I have heard many plans suggested for bringing under cultivation all that land, but I have not yet heard any that I think is feasible. We should not allow future settlement at great distances from railways without first having it understood that the people who go into such districts will be given railway facilities or they will not receive a patent for their lands. The government should take this matter into consideration when they are suggesting a change in the homesteading legislation, because many homesteaders in western Canada have suffered great hardships from the lack of railway and other facilities. We have throughout Canada ample land for every person in this country and for many millions of people who may come here, if a sane policy be adopted with regard to the settlement of that land. Land north of the present settled district, of the present railway facilities, is regarded by the people of Canada as of doubtful value, but the same thing applies to all land that is not settled anywhere. There is good land throughout Canada for many millions of people. In Ontario and Quebec there is ample land to offer as an inducement to incoming settlers and to our own people who are now leaving the country, if you have a proper progressive policy to take care of the prospective settler. We have the land to offer to the incoming settler, but we should offer it to him on the understanding that he will have the facilities when he gets the land, and we should not allow people to go out over the country promiscuously and settle. We should adopt a policy whereby certain sections should be thrown open for homesteading and certain sections sold in order to facilitate the development of the country. The policy of allowing people to settle wherever they like has been a bad policy in the past, and it is a bad policy to-day, and one that should not be encouraged, to assist people in taking up land where there is no assurance that they will have railway facilities in the near future.

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LIB

Malcolm McLean

Liberal

Mr. McLEAN (Melfort):

There is a good deal in what the hon. member has said; but if the people had waited for the government to lay out a policy whereby they would be segregated in certain areas, this country would not be producing now six hundred per cent more wheat than it did twenty years ago. That is a record that has not been equalled anywhere else in the world. Men are not all built alike. You cannot make human nature conform to certain modes and regulations that governments may enforce. When the Minister of Agriculture came west from Ontario and found that he had to go forty miles away from a railroad and across a difficult terrain-

Dominion Lands Act

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LIB
LIB

Malcolm McLean

Liberal

Mr. McLEAN (Melfort):

Well, forty miles later on, and across country that is difficult for transportation purposes-if he had not been willing to go out that distance from a railroad he would not have secured what he wanted, he would not have been satisfied, and the chances are that, he would have left the country and gone somewhere else. The minister is well known throughout Canada as a pioneer of worth. I should not like to make invidious comparisons, but he is only a sample of many members who come into the House of Commons to-day. Many people have come from the older parts of Canada, from Great Britain, from Europe; they have not been satisfied to go one or ten or twenty miles from a town or a railroad; they have wanted to get away out. The hon. member for Acadia (Mr. Gardiner) must be familiar with the story of the ranchman who, when he could see the smoke of a neighbour, decided to move away because the country was getting too crowded. So long as human nature is what it is, you cannot corral it in any segregated area. If you do not allow people to go out and settle where they like, they will move away. It will be a bad day for Canada if that instinct ever dies out.

If clause 8 of this bill is carried, the change will in my opinion help to remedy some of the weaknesses of previous legislation. The leader of the opposition and the hon. member for Acadia both spoke of lands in the south that should not have been entered as homesteads but that were entered with the result that the people had to move away. The discussion was illuminating to me because, coming from the north, I, along with many more, think the best lands in the western provinces are in the north.

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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

The hon. member for

Medicine Hat, in whose constituency those lands were, gave better evidence on the subject.

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LIB

Malcolm McLean

Liberal

Mr. McLEAN (Melfort):

I did not hear him so well as I did the other members. I appreciate the discussion because it throws a new light on the matter from my point of view. Some of us in the north have been accustomed to thinking that the good vacant lands are in the north, because we did not know of many good lands elsewhere. There is a weakness that will be remedied by the passing of this legislation. Many settlers in those districts that perhaps should not have been opened, many people who went in there with considerable wealth, as the leader of the opposition has said, find themselves

compelled to move elsewhere. The young people are able to move up into the north country and take up new homesteads, but the father or the guardian or the older brother is not able to move with them. I know of actual Cases of men who homesteaded forty odd years ago and who just missed coming within the second homestead law by a matter of a few months. Their boys have grown up and they have gone into the north. They are looking around for homesteads to take, but the father, at a time when he might well homestead, finds himself compelled to live on his son's farm or with one of his sons because he cannot go out now and buy land.

Among other things, this will enable the family to be kept together. I have not asked for this, and I am not particularly enthusiastic over it, because I believe-I may be wrong- there is not so much good vacant land in the province of Sasckatehewan as many people think. But I do think that our own people, whether in eastern or western Canada, who now find themselves compelled to seek a second homestead should be treated at least as generously as the immigrant. I say this in all kindness, because I was of that class myself, coming in here as an immigrant. Many of our people in western Canada, due to climatic or soil conditions or to lack of ability and experience, Save fallen down and to-day they are anxious to make a new start. Just before I left home a returned soldier from southern Saskatchewan asked me if I would see the Soldier Settlement Board and get permission for him to enter again for a homestead in northern Saskatchewan. He had already had one homestead or had secured a farm from the Soldier Settlement Board and had fallen down in making his payments- probably through no fault of his own, because he was a good worker, but he was in an unfortunate district, and he is now anxious to make an entry in the north country. I am satisfied that this house and the people of Canada would be just as anxious to give that returned soldier a chance to enter on another quarter-section of land free, except for the payment of ten dollars, as they would be to give a quarter-section of land to a man who comes in here from abroad and who can immediately go to the land office and get a quarter-section on payment of ten dollars. Many good settlers in western Canada even to-day are a considerable distance away from the railroad. Until four years ago one of the best districts I know of was .forty miles away from the railroad, yet the farmers there were carrying on and doing pretty well, and the railroad which has since gone into that dis-

Dominion Lands Act

trict is doing all right. I said that these lands were free except for the payment of ten dollars, but of course it is the old story; the government bets a quarter^section of land against ten dollars that the settler cannot stay on it for six months in each of three yeara and carry out his duties. Many of these lands are hard to bring under cultivation, but men who have to make a new start should be given a chance and I hope that the committee will pass this measure.

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LIB

Frank S. Cahill

Liberal

Mr. CAHILL:

I do not want to be understood as objecting to the measure passing or being opposed to a man having a right to a second homestead. I do not know that any hardship would be caused if every farmer in the west who had settled upon a farm and sold1 it had the right to a second homestead, or even a third or a fourth or a fifth, so long as he performed his duties on each one according to the act. I do not know that any harm would be done to the country if he was allowed to take as many homesteads as he could prove up. But some policy should be formulated by the government for the intelligent direction of settlement, so that settlement may take place in districts where there will be facilities in the future. The example of the Minister of Agriculture does not mean anything to-day. He may have located several hundred miles away from a railway, and was able to do it and succeed, but he is one man in a thousand, perhaps in a million. It is not necessary for people to undergo these hardships to-day, if there is intelligent direction of settlement by the department in charge. That is my only objection to the present system. I say that there should be some policy whereby the lands will be laid out for settlement where the settlers can expect facilities, instead of allowing the land to be taken up promiscuously all over the country, and then later on having the settlers coming to Ottawa and asking for railway facilities. But I have no objection whatever to a man taking the second homestead.

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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

I was about to rise to

express the views that were so admirably stated by the hon. member for Acadia. The hon. member for Pontiac has dealt with the matter as one viewing it from the outside, but he stated his opinion, and in my judgment, it is a sound opinion, as to the principles that should govern in considering matters of this kind. We all know what the situation is in the Peace river country. We all know that if there had not been unrestricted homesteading that situation would 56103-130*

not have arisen. The hon. member for Acadia has pointed out that in some instances the settlers are four hundred miles from railway facilities. I had a letter the other day from a returned soldier who had been fortunate enough to get a homestead entry within forty miles of an existing railway, which would be much closer when projected railways were constructed. This is the sequence of events: First, a long tedious

journey, the staking of a homestead, the paying of the ten dollars, the getting of the certificate, the building of a sod shack, sometimes a wooden shack, depending upon the distance and the facilities and the money the homesteader has; then a crop from a few acres, then more settlers, and then a demand for (a) transportation by roads, highways; (b) railway transportation, and (c) schools. The schools are a charge upon themselves, and the hon. member for Medicine Hat would have been able to tell this house that there are school districts now abandoned in drought areas in which there is not a single ratepayer left, although debentures were sold to eastern investors and others, and efforts are now being made to repay them. That condition actually prevailed in the territory to which the hon. gentleman referred, and in which he spoke of abandoned towns. In these new territories where homesteads are being staked, the settlers get further and further away, and then demands are made in just the order I have indicated. There was a statement made in this house by the Minister of the Interior that the day of free homesteads had long since passed, and that that policy should be abandoned, but that was not done.

I think it is very unfair for this parliament to be dealing with the matter in this way. We are only trustees for these western provinces, and we are now saying that these lands shall be made available for second homesteads when, on every equitable basis, the provincial authorities should really be dealing with them. We are coming very nearly to relinquishment of our trusteeship in passing this legislation. I think the point which the hon. member for Acadia made is most worthy of consideration. Apart from the fact that we should not grant the second homesteads in the way in which they are to be granted, I have lived long enough in western Canada and I have had enough to do as a member of parliament and as a defeated candidate to know just what is meant when you talk of the minister having power to dispose of second homesteads. Human nature is not any different under a Liberal coat or

Dominion Lands Act

under a Conservative coat; I am not now speaking with respect to the virtues of one party or the other, but the truth is that no minister of the interior, and no department like the Department of the Interior as now organized and administered should have it in its hands to say who shall and who shall not have a second homestead. It is unsound. Is it fair, is it just, is it proper, that it should be so? I leave it to this committee to say.

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LIB

Charles A. Stewart (Superintendent-General of Indian Affairs; Minister of Mines; Minister of the Interior)

Liberal

Mr. STEWART (Edmonton):

This was put in by the officers of the department to take the place of the certificate of the provincial authorities. I am quite willing to wipe it out. I am also willing to make the date , twenty-five instead of twenty-eight to meet the abjection of my hon. friend. But what I want to know is this: Does the committee object to the principle of giving a second homestead to people who are already in the country, while continuing the policy of giving homesteads indiscriminately to newcomers to Canada? If it is the attitude of the committee that we should treat our own people in Canada differently from newcomers, and not give them the right to a second homestead, I can withdraw the whole bill and leave the matter as it is now. If the desire of the committee is to deprive the settler who has gone through the hardships of homesteading once-and I am one of them, I know all about the sod shack and the other makeshifts-if it is the desire, I say, to deny that individual who has boys growing up around him the opportunity of selling out his little holding and homesteading in a new district, while we give to newcomers the privilege of securing free land, then I will withdraw the whole thing. On the other hand, if it is desired to give him a second chance, I am willing to wipe out supervision by the minister and make thp period 1925 instead of 1928.

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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

The hon. minister has with great fairness expressed his willingness to amend the legislation. I do not think he himself drafted the section, but nothing could more clearly indicate the attitude of the department of the Interior towards western Canada than that very section.

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April 13, 1928