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In 1870, three years after Confederation, the Canadian
government formally acquired the massive territory known as Rupert's Land from
the Hudson's Bay Company. Eager to open up new resources and markets and wary
of American expansion into the North, the government sought to integrate the vast
expanses of western Canada into its national life through the construction of
a transcontinental railway and the promotion of settlement. Unable to attract substantial immigration from Britain and other "preferred" sources,
the fledgling Dominion appealed to other cultural groups to settle on the Prairies. Among these groups were several religious communities seeking arable lands for
agricultural settlement and the freedom to practise their religion.
These groups included Doukhobors and Mennonites from Russia and Mormons from
the United States. The impact of government decrees and public opinion would profoundly
shape each community's vision of their future in Canada.