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Glossary: Settlement

Cartoon showing Western Canada up for auction, December 31, 1880. From Grip Magazine. Shows Western Canada being sold as a slave girl by Prime Minister John A. Macdonald. The cartoon attacked the government\’s action in giving the Canadian Pacific Railway enormous subsidies, huge areas of western lands and a virtual monopoly on prairie railroads. Canadian Northern Railway: Deemed "Canada's Second Transcontinental" the Canadian Northern Railway was incorporated in 1899 following the amalgamation of two small Manitoba grain-transporting branch lines. At its peak the CNoR possessed 16, 093 km of transcontinental railway with lines connecting Montreal to Vancouver. However, as a result of the outbreak of the war in 1914 and high construction costs, the Canadian Northern Railway encountered serious financial difficulties. On the recommendation of a Royal commission, in 1917 the federal Government decided to combine the operations of the government-owned Canadian Government Railways and the privately owned, but financially troubled, Canadian Northern Railways System. The new railway was called the Canadian National Railways in 1918. To learn more about this railway, visit the Canadian Northern Railway website.

Canadian Pacific Railway: Canada's first transcontinental railway connecting the Atlantic with the Pacific coast. In 1872 the Canadian Pacific Railway was chartered by Parliament in Ottawa as the fulfillment of a promise to British Columbia to construct of a Pacific railway within ten years of their joining Canadian Confederation. Although the rail line faced scandals and shortages of money, the last spike was drove in by Donald Smith, Lord Strathcona. By mid-1886, regular trains were running through to the Pacific shores, thereby enabling Vancouver to emerge as the new West Coast terminus. In years to follow, the CPR carried settlers and supplies into the west and far west Plains, took their products out to market, and prospered both on its land sales and mounting western traffic.

Dominion Lands Act: An act passed by the federal government in 1872 in order to encourage settlement. Under the terms of this act, the government provided 160 acres (65 hectares) of free land to each head of a family or 21 year old male if he paid a $10 registration fee, resided on the land for three years, cultivated 30 acres (12 hectares), and built a permanent dwelling.

Head Tax: Legislated as part of the Chinese Immigration Act, 1885. The Act stipulated that any person of Chinese origin who wanted to enter Canada was required to pay the Federal Government a $500/person fee that was called the "head tax". The tax was so expensive that, in many cases, only one family member could afford the trip to Canada, having to leave their wives and children behind. From 1885-1923 the Federal Government collected an estimated $123-million from this tax. The Chinese Immigration Act, 1923 halted Chinese immigration altogether until 1947.

Homestead: A house that is located on land occupied by the owner, surrounded by outbuildings, exempt from seizure and forced sale for debt. Under the Dominion Lands Act, the "permanent dwelling" and all farm buildings surrounding it were considered the homestead.

Homesteader: A person, or group of people that lived and worked on a homestead. Many of the immigrants who travelled to Canada became homesteaders.

Immigrant: A person who leaves one country (generally their home country) in order to settle permanently in another, also known as settlers.

National Policy: Policy directive of the Conservative government of John A. MacDonald aimed at nation-building and creating a healthy industrial economy. The National Policy was based on three main ideas: the National Policy, or high protective tariff; the completion of a transcontinental railway; and the settlement of the West through Immigration. The Conservative government believed that all Canadians would benefit from this policy and that through it Canada would become a nation in more than name only.

Navvy: Slang term used to describe migrant labourers, usually those that worked on the railways and roads.

Northwest Territories: Region in western Canada also known as Rupert's Land, aquired by the Canadian Government in 1869. The Northwest Territories Act of 1875 determined that the area would be governed by an appointed council until such time as the population warranted the necessity of elected officials. The capital of the region was initially Battleford, until 1882 when it was moved to Regina. The province of Manitoba was incorporated in, while British Columbia joined confederation in . In 1905 the Laurier government created two more western provinces out of the Northwest Territories, Alberta and Saskatchewan.

Polygamy: Custom of being married to more than one person at a time. Usually the marriage of a man to more than one woman, or the practice of having several wives, at the same time.

Racism: Any communication, action or course of conduct, whether intentional or unintentional, that denies recognition, benefits, rights of access to any person or community on the basis of their membership or perceived membership in a racial, ethnic or cultural community.

Remittance Men: During the late 1880s the British government began exiling men who had committed an "indiscretion." Such men were often exiled to Canada where they lived on money sent from their families back home. These "remittance men" were generally of the upper-middle classes and well-educated. Many of them found work on the ranches and became a prominent part of Western Canada's social landscape during the quarter century prior to World War I.

Ruperts Land: Territory comprised of northern Quebec and Ontario. Manitoba, most of Saskatchewan, southern Alberta and segments of the North West Territory and Nunavut that was granted to the Hudson's Bay Company in 1670 by Charles II of England. Named in honour of Prince Rupert, the King's cousin and the Hudson Bay Company's first governor the company was also granted a monopoly on the furs in and complete control of the territory. By 1870 the Hudson's Bay Company had constructed nearly 100 fur trade posts in the territory but, in 1869 the Canadian government purchased Rupert's Land from the Company for 300 000 British pounds.

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