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Description found in Archives
Series part of
Place of creation
No place, unknown, or undetermined
Scope and content
Series consists of correspondence files consisting of letters received and copies of replies, together with departmental memoranda and other relevant documents. The School Lands Branch is believed to have used its own file registry system. Subject and case files concerning Branch correspondence, rulings, administration and disposal of school lands were numbered sequentially and were given a "SL" suffix or prefix. These files are retained by the National Archives in this series.
Copyright belongs to the Crown.
Finding aid 15-51 is a typed file list. 15-51 (Paper)
Biography / Administrative history
The School Lands Branch was established in 1879 to administer lands set aside under the Dominion Lands Act for the endowment of education. Under the original Dominion Lands Act (35 Vic., c. 23, s. 22, 1872) and all subsequent amendments to 1930, sections 11 and 29 of every surveyed township (ie. one-eighteenth of the township lands) were designated as school lands. All revenue generated from the sale of these lands was to be invested in Dominion securities credited to the province in which the lands were situated. The revenue derived from such sources -- less the costs of management -- was to be paid to the provinces for the support of their public schools.
This arrangement was a direct response to a request from the Executive Council of Manitoba for federal assistance to help build educational facilities for its rapidly increasing population (Canada. Department of the Interior. Annual Report of the Department of the Interior for the Year Ended 30 June, 1879, Ottawa, 1879, pg. vii). Special legislation was enacted by the federal government in order to meet this request (42 Vic., c. 31, s. 22-23, 1879); thereby necessitating the creation of a separate School Lands Branch within the department to administer the terms of the act.
Under the terms of the act, school land sales were to be made by public auction after "due advertisement" at an "upset price based upon the fair value of the unoccupied lands in the township" (ibid). The act required a down payment of one fifth the price in cash and the balance in nine annual instalments at six percent interest. The School Lands Branch was responsible for setting the date of the auction, listing the properties that would be available for sale, and inspecting and evaluating the property in order to establish the upset price.
Usually, school lands were not listed for sale until they had attained a reasonable market value. This policy ensured that maximum revenues would be generated by the sale. It also meant that the Branch would probably have to wait until all other lands in the township had been improved through homesteading. By creating an artificial shortage in farmland, the Department could almost guarantee that land prices would be at their highest levels. Until such time as the school lands would be offered for sale, the Department often leased the lands for grazing, timber, and/or haying purposes. The income generated from such activities was also distributed to the provinces as part of their education endowment. Prior to the turn of the century, leasing arrangements with school lands were administered by the Clerk of the Timber, Mines and Grazing Branch. But this procedure proved too complicated and after 1901 the School Lands Branch assumed responsibility for issuing these permits (NAC, RG 15, vol 792, file 574839, memo from Turriff to Ryley, 14 June 1901).
As established in 1879, the School Lands Branch was placed under the direction of Frank Checkley, where it remained until his death in 1918. Initially, the Branch reported to the Minister through the Commissioner of Dominion Lands. However, in 1909 the Branch gained full independent status, reporting directly to the Minister. With Checkley's death in 1918, the status of the Branch was downgraded to that of a Division, and it was placed back under the authority of the Dominion Lands Branch, and later (ca. 1923), the Dominion Lands Bureau. The unit was disbanded in 1930 when responsibility for the management of natural resources and unalienated Crown Lands within the western provinces was transferred to various provincial authorities. RG15 General Inventory
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