UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The Imperial Colonisation Board : British administration on the Canadian prairies, 1888-1909 Norton, Wayne R.


For twenty years after 1888, the British Government conducted an experiment in colonisation on the Canadian prairies. Hoping to avoid a radical redistribution of land to alleviate distress and disorder in Scotland's Western Islands, the Salisbury Government attempted an emigrationist policy. In 1888 it authorised the expenditure of public funds to establish colonies of Highlanders in Manitoba and Assiniboia. Adverse economic and climatic conditions combined with inadequate planning to severely hamper the progress of the settlements. Problems associated with administration from London compounded existing difficulties. By 1893, a Liberal administration less inclined to favour state-aided emigration abandoned all commitments to such schemes on the basis of the experience of the struggling Highland settlements. The Canadian Government was unable to adopt a consistent policy toward the British scheme. The Department of the Interior was frequently at variance with the Office of the Canadian High Commissioner in London. The settlements received much publicity and required much administrative attention before the British Government, with financial integrity, was able to conclude the settlement scheme in 1908. It is argued that the experience of the Canadian settlements played a far larger role in determining British policy toward state-aided colonisation than has previously been acknowledged. It is maintained that the publicised difficulties of the settlements contributed to the Canadian perception that British agriculturalists made unsatisfactory settlers and to the subsequent policy preference for continental European emigrants. It is suggested that the episode stands in sharp contrast to the orthodox view of the Scottish experience in Canadian historical writing

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