Government Rules and Regulations
by Laura Madokoro, Library and Archives Canada
The early days of immigration to Canada saw the Imperial Government
in London taking the lead role in encouraging emigrants to set up home in a new
land. It was only in 1862 that the Province of Canada's Department of Agriculture
assumed significant responsibility for immigration matters.
The imperial authorities focused most closely on the process of
emigration from Great Britain (including regulating conditions aboard passenger
ships), while authorities in the colonies focused on the task of assigning land
to the immigrant settlers. In 1828, the first officials concerned exclusively
with managing the migration process were appointed from London -- but paid by
the colony. Stationed at Québec and other ports up the St. Lawrence and
across the Great Lakes as far as Hamilton, these new emigrant agents ensured compliance with the Imperial Passenger Acts, and advised immigrants on how to apply for land on which to settle.
Meanwhile, emigration agents stationed across the British Isles
promoted emigration to North America. Imperial officials in the Colonial Office
used circulars and directives to inform and educate their agents, both in North
America and Britain, about a number of settlement schemes and initiatives. The
Imperial Government's plans often attempted to boost the populations in the colonies of British North America, while at the same time alleviating problems of overpopulation and underemployment in Great Britain. In broadside (poster), handbill or pamphlet format, these publications outlined the government's settlement strategies and explained the manner in which the agents were to proceed. Schemes included grants of land to veterans and financial loans or assisted passage across the ocean. To further encourage prospective immigrants, some of the circulars described the conditions of life in British North America and provided practical advice about the voyage.
Library and Archives Canada's holdings include examples of circulars and directives produced by the Colonial Office in London in the 1820s and 1830s. These records illustrate the manner in which the Imperial Government sought to encourage emigration to Upper and Lower Canada, particularly during times of domestic difficulty. Contemporary newspapers contain notices published by emigration agents, while the forms they used and the pamphlets they produced are scattered through numerous government record series.