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BC Sessional Papers

REPORT In regard to a Petition addressed to the President of the United States by certain residents of… British Columbia. Legislative Assembly 1900

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 63 Vict.       Reply to Petition of United States Residents of Atlin. 485
In regard to a Petition addressed to the President of the United States by certain
residents of Atlin. complaining of recent mining legislation of this Province,
which Petition is referred to in the Report of the Minister of Justice on chapter
50, " An Act to amend the ' Placer Mining Act.'"
Provincial Secretary.
Provincial Secretary's Office,
29th January, 1900.
To His Honour the Lieutenant-Governor in Council :
The undersigned has had before him for consideration a communication from the
Lieutenant-Governor, dated the 12th ultimo, wherewith is transmitted a copy of a Petition
addressed to the President of the United States by certain residents of Atlin, complaining of
recent mining legislation of this Province, as therein set forth.
The undersigned has the honour to report as follows, in regard to said Petition :—
The Petition states that four-fifths of the claims prospected and located belong to citizens
of the United States ; thus, according to the Petition itself, there is only one-fifth left for
other aliens and our own citizens. This statement is probably like the other statements in
the Petition, greatly exaggerated, but there is sufficient truth in it to justify (if this proportion
between aliens and citizens should be maintained) the stand which the Legislature took to
carry out their avowed policy, the reservation of the Provincial placer mines for British
The question whether such policy was in the true interest of the Province is one for the
Legislature and the Legislature alone, and the unanimity with which that body endorsed this
policy is sufficient to show that the Government and the Legislature were in complete accord
in the matter. There is no attempt to discriminate between the native born and the naturalized citizen, nor to throw any difficulty whatever in the. way of an alien desiring to become
naturalized ; all that is done is to say—our placer mines are reserved for those who are prepared to acknowledge their obligations as citizens of the British Empire.
" Taking up the complaints in the Petition seriatim, we would say : any rights acquired
by the petitioners have been preserved to them. The legislation complained of specifically
exempts all claims recorded prior to its passage, and provides for the unimpeded working of
such claims by the holders, although aliens. A reference to the mining laws will show that
their whole tenor is, as it necessarily must be, that no right is acquired until a claim is
recorded. As already stated, all such rights are scrupulously respected. It may be well to note
this, as a casual reader of the Petition, unacquainted with the facts, might naturally suppose
that such claims had been confiscated.
The Government, with the sanction of the Legislature, had an unquestioned right to
reserve any lands they might think fit from the prospector and miner. They might have said,
the Crown retains in its own possession for the present all mines and minerals the property of
the Crown in the northern part of the Province, and no one will be allowed to prospect for or
appropriate minerals in that section. Such a course might have been taken with a view of
working these claims by the Crown for its own direct benefit, or with the purpose of having
these claims in reserve after the mining interests in the other parts of the Province had been
more fully developed.
Suppose such a course had been adopted, that all the miners had been excluded from the
lands in question, the absurdity of the petitioners' claims would be seen at once, and the
absurdity exists no less although the reserve thus made has been relaxed so far as citizens are
concerned. The grievance of the petitioners is really not that they are shut out, but that
others are admitted. 486 Reply to Petition of United States Residents of Atlin. 1899
The fifth clause of the Petition claims that the petitioners had acquired vested rights by
taking out free miners' certificates not only to the rights granted by such certificates at the
time, but to renewal in perpetuity of such rights. To state this is to refute it. The Crown
and the Legislature, in providing for the granting to free miners the right to prospect for and
appropriate minerals, did not and could not divest themselves of the power to amend the terms
and conditions of such certificates in any manner that might be deemed expedient When
recorded claims were exempted from the operation of the law, everything, as already stated,
had been done that the most extreme advocate of vested rights could justly claim.
The sixth clause of the Petition complains of alleged losses to the petitioners through lack
of sufficient facilities for recording claims. This, to some extent, may have been the case, but,
so far as it did exist, was caused by unavoidable circumstances, for which no responsibility
attaches to the Government.
So anxious have the Government and Legislature been to minimize as much as possible
any hardship or injustice which may have been occasioned through the sudden rush into the
northern country, following on the discovery of rich diggings there, that an Act was passed at
the last Session of the Legislature, providing for the appointment of a Judge of the Supreme
Court as a Commissioner, with full powers to settle all disputes in that country in accordance
with equity and the spirit of the Mining Acts, without being bound by the strict letter of the
The grievance complained of in the seventh clause of the Petition, that aliens cannot
obtain work on claims held by citizens, has already been removed. By the legislation of last
Session, the necessity of a labourer in a mine taking out a free miner's certificate is done away
The eighth clause of the Petition alleges great injury to the interests of the country
through the action of the law complained of. This, however, is purely a matter for the Legislature to judge of, and is of no concern to outsiders. The Government do not consider the
statement true, nor that any present depreciation, even if such exists, is likely to be lasting.
The ninth clause of the Petition alleges damage to citizens of the United States to the
extent of many millions. This is only necessary to allude to as a good instance of the absurd
misstatements and exaggerations of the whole of the document. As already repeatedly stated,
the petitioners had acquired no rights which are in any way affected by the legislation
complained of.
Dated this 6th day of June, A.D. 1899.
C.  A.  Semlin,
Provincial Secretary.
The Committee of Counsel concur in the above Report, and advise that a copy of same, if
approved, be forwarded to the Secretary of State, for the information of His Excellency the
Governor-General in Council.
A. Campbell Reddie,
Deputy Clerk Executive Council.
victoria, B.C.:
Printed by Richard Wolfenden, Printer to the Queen's Most Excellent Majesty.


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