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Government of Alberta

Government of Canada

 

The Government and Land Selection

Ukrainian home near Vegreville, Alberta, 1906. The government began to take an active role in the settlement of Ukrainian immigrants when it became apparent that most Ukrainians wished to settle among their countrymen near the Star settlement in east central Alberta. The prospect of a solid Ukrainian bloc settlement covering hundreds of square miles clashed with the government's objective of assimilating and Canadianizing alien immigrants. Complete dispersal of Ukrainian settlers was not a viable solution. Consequently a compromise solution that combined the advantages of bloc settlement with rapid assimilation was found. A number of smaller bloc settlements or "settlement nodes" were established throughout the Prairie region. Wooded areas and lands adjacent to established (non-Ukrainian) settlements or industries were chosen so that the settlers might have an opportunity to generate capital by selling cordwood or seeking "off farm" employment. A number of the new sites chosen by government agents, especially the Whitemouth district in southern Manitoba, were vastly inferior to the settlement in east central Alberta, although there is no evidence to suggest that the agents were conscious of this fact.

Mrs. Fred (Sophie) Hrynchuck, Ukrainian settler, Redwater, Alberta, 1912. Born in Galicia, 1891. The new "settlement nodes" were usually settled by immigrants with no clear destination and no friends and relatives. Coercion by government officials and confrontations with immigrants occurred on those occasions when officials tried to settle immigrants who wished to go elsewhere in new settlements where their fellow countrymen were absent. The confrontations were the result of social rather than economic considerations. Settlers protested because they wanted to be near friends and relatives, not because they suspected the lands to be of inferior quality. In fact, land of superior quality was often rejected in order to join friends on inferior land. Once a nucleus of Ukrainians had been settled in all ten or so of the "nodes" the confrontations came to an end.

Because most Ukrainian immigrants arrived with little capital and had displayed a preference for wooded country, government officials tended to assume that all Ukrainians wanted and required this kind of land. It was on the basis of this stereotype that Ukrainians were directed towards the marginal areas of the aspen parkland so that the land for the new settlement "nodes" had been selected. But there was no conscious discrimination concealed beneath these policies.

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            For more on the history of settlement in Alberta, visit Peel’s Prairie Provinces.