Public Ownership

AuthorElaine L. Hughes, Arlene J. Kwasniak, Alastair R. Lucas
Alastair R Lucas
Traditionally, Canadian public land law and policy has been primar-
ily about privatization. The general assumption was that optimal land
use required privati zation so that private entities could embark upon
the process of development and exploitation. Specif‌ically, there were
two major categories of grant — free homestead grants to settlers and
substantial grants to railway companies to fund development of a na-
tional transportation network. Until about 1930, these were the main
elements of the Dominion Lands Policy aimed at nation building.1
At Confederation, there were exceptions, but these were largely
concerned with works and undertakings — critical infrastructure and
directly related land s — that served the general public as well a s the
developers of public lands. Apart from road allowances, the division
of property made by the British North America Act is illustrative. By
section 109, “All Lands, Mines, Minerals and Royalties” wit hin prov-
incial boundaries were to “belong” to those provinces.2 But the federal
government retained the public works and property li sted in the Third
Schedule, including canal s, public harbours, public marine vessels,
railways, milita ry roads, public buildings devoted to federal matters,
1 RC Brown, “For the Pur poses of the Dominion: Backg round Paper on the His-
tory of Federal Publ ic Lands Policy to 1930” in JG Nelson, RC Scace, & R Kour i,
eds, Canadia n Public Land Use in Perspective (Ottawa: Socia l Science Research
Council, 1974) 5 at 7 [Canadian Public Land Use].
2 British North Amer ica Act, 30 & 31 Vict, c 3, s 109 [BNA Act].

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