Dominion-Provincial Conferences on Immigration
To hammer out the details of a unified immigration policy, four conferences were held in Ottawa, between 1868 and 1874, with provincial and Dominion government representatives in attendance. Not all provinces, however, sent delegates to each conference. At the first such gathering, the Dominion government assumed responsibility for maintaining emigration offices and agents in the provinces, Britain, and Europe, as well as for operating quarantine stations. The provinces were to appoint emigration agents to work locally, and could also send their own agents overseas. Unfortunately, this resulted in duplication of effort and rivalry among provinces for recruits. In addition, advertising in Britain and northern Europe was to be increased.
While the 1870 conference dealt primarily with the settlement of the Prairies, the decisions reached at the 1871 gathering had much broader implications. Delegates agreed that each province could develop its own settlement programme to compete with the Homestead Act, passed by the United States government in 1862, which offered 160 acres of free land to bona fide settlers over age 21, if they agreed to live on it for five years. To further the delegates' newly-devised scheme, the Dominion government promised New Brunswick an annual grant of $10,000 to be used to attract and retain settlers. Encouraged by this incentive, the New Brunswick legislature enacted The Free Grants Act of 1872, which offered adult male immigrants a minimum of 100 acres of free land if they resided on the lot for not less than three years and fulfilled certain conditions.
In addition, the 1871 delegates developed a policy of passenger warrants, which was implemented in 1872 and intended to reduce the cost of a transatlantic voyage for desirable settlers. Two types of warrants were available. The first, issued to a large number of British and European migrants, reduced travel fares by one-third to those signifying their intent to reside in Canada; the second, issued to very few, reduced the cost of passage by one-half. These special warrants were reserved for agricultural labourers and female domestic servants, the most desirable immigrants.
Delegates to the 1874 Dominion-Provincial Conference witnessed a major shift in attitude towards immigration. The Dominion government's Department of Agriculture was to assume control of immigration policy, while the provincial governments remained in charge of settlement or colonization, thereby reducing duplication. In addition, the provinces could still maintain a sub-agent in London to represent their own interests on "emigration matters generally".*
To maintain a presence but reduce costs, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia appointed a joint sub-agent in London at an annual salary of é600. Despite this, by 1877 the London office was considered too costly and was closed. The Dominion government's control of immigration policy, after 1874, meant that provincial interests took a back seat to the Dominion government's priorities. As a result, immigration to western regions was promoted at the expense of the Maritime Provinces and Central Canada.
* Much of the information in this section was drawn from New Denmark, New Bunswick: New Approaches in the Study of Danish Migration to Canada, 1872-1901, by Erik John Nielsen Lang.