Quebec History Marianopolis College

Date Published:
June 2005

L’Encyclopédie de l’histoire du Québec / The Quebec History Encyclopedia


Natural Resources Question


Natural Resources Question. When the Dominion of Canada acquired in 1869 the Hudson's Bay Company's territories, it was assumed that Canada, since she had handed over to the company the sum of $100,000, had acquired these territories by purchase. When Manitoba was created a province in 1870, and when later Saskatchewan and Alberta were created provinces in 1905, the Dominion therefore retained control of certain natural resources in these provinces, such as crown lands and water-powers. At first, the people of these provinces, which were pioneer communities when created, acquiesced in this situation. But as these provinces became more populous, it began to be felt that they were an inferior position to the provinces of eastern Canada, which had received under responsible government control of their natural resources; and doubts began to be expressed as to the legality or propriety of the Dominion withholding from the western provinces complete control of their natural resources. It was pointed out that the Dominion had not, in point of law, acquired the Hudson's Bay Company's territories by purchase: the Hudson's Bay Company had in 1869 resigned these territories to the Crown of Great Britain; the Crown had re-transferred them to the Dominion of Canada; and the Dominion had merely paid $100,000 to the Hudson's Bay Company by way of compensation. In other words, the Crown had merely handed over these territories to the Dominion, in the same way as it has previously handed over their crown lands to the eastern provinces; and if the eastern provinces had control of their natural resources, it followed that the western provinces should have control of theirs. The agitation in the western provinces for the return of their natural resources came to a head shortly after the Great War; and after various commissions and committees had reported on the question, the Dominion government came to an agreement with the governments of Manitoba and Alberta in 1929, and with the government of Saskatchewan in 1930, whereby the natural resources of these provinces were handed over to them. An agreement was also concluded in 1930 with the province of British Columbia, whereby certain railway lands granted in 1880-4 by British Columbia to the Dominion were re-transferred to British Columbia. These agreements were ratified by the Dominion parliament and the legislatures of the respective provinces, and were validated, upon address of both houses of the Dominion parliament, by the parliament of Great Britain. See Chester Martin, The first "new province" of the Dominion (Can. hist. rev., 1920), and "The natural resources question": The historical basis of provincial claims ( Winnipeg, 1920) ; and the Canadian Annual Review, 1929-30.

Source: W. Stewart WALLACE, ed., The Encyclopedia of Canada, Vol. IV, Toronto, University Associates of Canada, 1948, 400p., pp. 385-386.

© 2005 Claude Bélanger, Marianopolis College