The Story of the Canadian National Land Settlement Association

By Andrew Elliott

A century ago, on June 6, 1919, the Canadian National Railway Company (CN) was born. Its incorporation consolidated private and public railway systems into one public organization. The intention was for the new rail company to provide stable rail service to all parts of Canada. There are many aspects to the history of CN, and the vast and rich archival collection (nearly 16,000 containers of archival material, in the Canadian National Railways fonds) at Library and Archives Canada reflects this sprawl. The fonds, like the company itself, resembles a many-headed hydra. The myriad company functions reflected the perceived need for the company to be all things to all people.

To this archivist, one very interesting sub-section of CN was The Office of the Director of Colonization and Agriculture. For much of its existence from the early 1919 until 1963, this department was run by T.P. Devlin. In 1925, the Canadian Department of Citizenship and Immigration enacted regulations that remained in effect until 1951. These regulations stated that, where possible, immigrant land settlers from continental Europe should deposit money in trust with a government-approved land settlement agency.

Thus the Canadian National Land Settlement Association (CNLSA) was established on March 9, 1925, as part of CN’s program to promote immigration and land settlement in Canada. This both increased rail traffic and assisted the railway in disposing of some of its land grants. Over 27,000 immigrants were assisted by the CNLSA. Land was located and money released to immigrants to purchase land, equipment and livestock. This continued until 1963. As both the Colonization and Agriculture Department and the CNLSA were closely associated in this work, the CNLSA being virtually part of the Department, the records are often intermingled. It is also worth noting that the CNLSA competed with the Canadian Pacific Railway’s own association, the Canadian Colonization Association, which operated from 1923 onwards. Further information about this organization can be found at the Glenbow Museum and Archives.

Much of the administrative and operational records created by the Office of the Director of Colonization and Agriculture (and the CNLSA) help document CN’s efforts to obtain settlers, their placement on the land and their progress. These include reports, policy and correspondence files, files concerning individuals and organizations (usually identified by ethnic origins), community progress reports, settlement proposals, shipping files, relations with various governments, and copies of annual reports and other publications. Of particular interest are the specific immigrant files, which include an application questionnaire indicating the nationality, language, religion, age and family members; identification card; record of service for families, including name of the shipping line and ship used for passage to Canada; receipts; documentation of location of settlement in Canada; and various correspondence. In the 1920s and 1930s, many immigrants brought over to Canada were from Eastern Europe or Ukraine.

Since these records first arrived at LAC back in the 1960s, the way to search the collection has been through a 194-page paper finding aid (FA 30-39). Work is underway to make this finding aid available electronically. Additional efforts are underway to digitize portions of this vast collection (several hundred boxes of textual records, photographs, maps and technical drawings) in order to make it more accessible to researchers.

There are numerous CNLSA photographic reports, found in a sub-series attached to the main CN photograph collection. Additional records can be found here, in a new sub-series attached to the Department of Colonization and Agriculture series that document the settlement of immigrant families, particularly in Western Canada in the 1920s and 1930s. Many reports provide lists with interesting information, such as the following List of Immigrants Settled in Western Canada in 1934-35.

Typed list indicating the names, origins and location of settlement for some families directed by the Western offices.

List from report entitled Brief notes on the settlement of some of the families directed by the Western offices during the years 1934 and 1935, (e011000601)

Many European immigrants heading for farms in Western Canada stopped at the Winnipeg immigration sheds attached to the CN railway station, as seen in the photograph below.

Black and white photograph of a group of immigrants who had arrived at Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Immigrants from Central Europe arriving in Winnipeg, Manitoba. 1920s (c036148)

The CNLSA reports are invaluable resources for researchers who would wish to find out more about their ancestors and about farm settlement patterns. Since the censuses for the 1930s have not yet been released, the information provided in the CNSLA reports will be, for some years to come, the only information available as to where the immigrants came from and where they settled. Here are a few examples:

Page from an album with two black and white photographs; one of a family standing in front of a house surrounded by farmland, and the other a close-up of the same scene. Page also includes typed information about the family’s identity and their immigration details.

The Kretchnear family and farm. A German settlement. (e011000044)

Page from an album with two black and white photographs; one showing a family standing in front of a house and the other showing a team of horses pulling a plough. Photos are captioned with typed text.

German Romanian Settlement, the Mehle Family, 1928. (e011000523)

Page from an album with two black and white photographs; one showing a family standing in front of a house and the other showing a view of farmland. The photos are captioned with typed text.

Swiss Settlement, The Buff family in British Columbia, 1937 (e011000585)

Page from an album with two black and white photographs. One showing a team of horses pulling a plough, and the other shows a man standing with his team of horses. The photos are captioned with typed text.

Yugosalvian Setttlement, The Silobodec family in Saskatchewan, 1937 (e011000581)

Many of these photographic reports were recently digitized. There are plans in the coming years for a crowdsourcing project with LAC’s Co-Lab. As you can see, the CNLSA archival records are a treasure trove of information, particularly for Western Canadian farm settlement, and we are now only just starting to get a handle on what kind of information is available. Stay tuned for further updates.


Andrew Elliott is an archivist with the Archives Branch at Library and Archives Canada.

Images of Working Dogs now on Flickr

Working dogs learn and perform tasks to support and sometimes amuse their owners.

A black-and-white photograph of a boy with his dog harnessed to a two-wheeled cart. The cart is loaded with dried cod.

Dog cart loaded with cod “Ready for market,” Gaspé, Quebec [e010861908]

A black-and-white photograph of a circus dog jumping from a platform on a tall pole. Four men below hold a large blanket to catch the falling dog.

Professor Gentry’s diving dog, Toronto Industrial Exhibition, Ontario [PA-068465]

Regardless of whether they are purebreds or mixed breeds, these dogs are trained to do a variety of jobs very well. Some of the jobs include pulling carts and sleds, herding livestock, hunting, as well as providing valued services to the community such as policing, search and rescue, therapy, and guarding homes, businesses and buildings.

A black-and-white photograph of 11 dogs pulling a sled through the snow. Two men are supporting and balancing the weight of a large canoe on the sled.

A dog team on Gordon Bay, Hudson Strait, Nunavut [PA-121599]

A black-and-white photograph of a man with his four dogs wearing pack harnesses.

Dogs carrying packs ready for the trail, Valley of the Firth River, Yukon [PA-044646]

The breed chosen often depends on what the job requires; however, most dogs share common canine traits of strength, discipline, intelligence and loyalty.

A black-and-white photograph of a dog harnessed to a small two-wheeled passenger cart. A girl sits on the cart and holds the reins to her dog.

A girl driving a cart at Harvey’s, Toronto, Ontario [PA-069924]

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Butterflies, love triangles and the northern lights

By Shane McCord

The recently concluded Library and Archives Canada (LAC) exhibition Premiere included four drawings by midshipman Robert Hood (c. 1797–1821). These drawings were first presented on the Discover Blog in April 2015, shortly after they had been acquired by LAC. Robert Hood was a talented draftsman, cartographer, scientist, natural historian, and anthropologist before the term existed. He is remembered today for his participation in the 1819–1822 Coppermine Expedition, led by John Franklin. While on this expedition, Hood was the first to document various species of animals and insects. He was also the first to note the electromagnetic nature of the aurora borealis. Posthumously, some of his drawings were reproduced and published in Franklin’s account of the expedition, which included a glowing report on Hood’s work and conduct.

While Hood is known, to a degree, for the contributions to scientific knowledge he made during the expedition, his story is also remembered for the part he played in a now infamous love triangle between himself, a Dené woman known as Greenstockings, and Sir George Back, another artist who was part of the expedition. The story, which includes a failed duel between Back and Hood, has been told many times and is neatly summarized in the Dictionary of Canadian Biography entry for Hood.

A colour lithograph of a woman sitting on the ground and mending a snowshoe, with a man standing on the right. Both figures are wearing long fur cloaks.

Keskarrah a guide from the Yellowknife Denes and his daughter Green Stockings, mending a snow shoe (e011156563)

All the members of the expedition were suffering from malnutrition and exhaustion, and Hood did not survive. He was likely near death when he was killed by a fellow member of the expedition, the voyageur Michel Terohaute. Terohaute was executed for the murder, and was later suspected of cannibalism.

A watercolour of two young Inuit men wearing western-style clothing. One is captioned “Augustus”, the other “Junius”.

Portraits of the [Inuit] interpreters from Churchill, employed by the North Land Expedition. (e011154367)

The first of the four drawings shown in the Premiere exhibition is a double portrait of two Inuit guides and interpreters, Tattanoeuck (“Augustus”) and Hoeootoerock (“Junius”). Tattannoeuck was a member of three expeditions, two with Franklin (1819–1821, 1825–1827) and one with Back (1833–1835). He was heavily involved in these expeditions and was well respected by his companions, to the point that Sir John Richardson, a member of both the first and second Franklin expeditions, named a species of butterfly Callophrys augustinus in his honour. Hoeootoerock was separated from the members of the Coppermine Expedition during the crossing of the Coppermine, and is presumed to have died there.

Two of the drawings are depictions of northern mammals: a mink and a cross fox. At the time these works were produced, such species were becoming objects of study in Western European science. Images such as these were among the primary reasons why Hood, an officer with a talent for drawing, was selected for the expedition. Apart from their aesthetic value, these images were important as evidence of wildlife in the region of the expedition and provided valuable information for the expansion of the fur trade.

A watercolour of a mink peering into the water by a rocky river shore.

[Mink] (e011154368)

A watercolour of a white fox hunting a mouse in a snowy landscape.

[Cross Fox catching a Mouse] (e011154369)

The final and most interesting drawing shows the interior of a Cree tent. The inscription is “Interior of a Southern Indian tent; taken on the Basquiase Hill, Cumberland House, Hudson’s Bay. The tent is made of Moose skin parchment; the cloathes [sic] of the indians are made of skins. The cloth obtained from the English factories. March 25th 1820 Robert Hood North Land Expedition.” The drawing is valuable for the anthropological information it provides and for its historical context. In Hood’s journal from the expedition, he describes making such a drawing on March 31, and he provides several anecdotes regarding the people in the tent. It is yet to be determined if this is that same drawing and there is an inaccuracy in the dates, or if Hood made a second drawing.

A watercolour showing the interior of a tent. Seven people are sitting around a fire. One is a mother with a child in a cradleboard. Pelts or meat are drying on a cross beam and a pot of food is over the fire. A musket and a bow and arrows are leaning against the side of the tent. One person is eating and another is smoking a pipe, while the others appear to be observing the artist (Hood) at work.

[Interior of a Cree tent] (e011154370)

All four of these drawings relay important documentary evidence about the region of Cumberland House, in what is now northern Saskatchewan. These drawings are also fascinating simply as items carried on that ill-fated journey. The Franklin expeditions are an important part of the history of Canada’s development as a nation, and the tragic aspects of the first expedition in particular have made it one of the most popular and well-known episodes in Arctic history.


Shane McCord is an art archivist in the Archives Branch of Library and Archives Canada.

Images of Automobiles now on Flickr

A black-and-white photograph of an early automobile parked outside of a barn.

An early automobile [PA-013110

Henry Seth Taylor built the first automobile in Canada in 1867. At the time, all automobiles, whether produced domestically or imported from the United States, were unique luxury items only a few could afford.

A black-and-white photograph of a man, a woman and six children in a convertible car parked in front of a house.

A man, a woman and six children pose in an automobile parked in front of David Gillies’ home in Carleton Place, Ontario [PA-059307

In 1904, the Ford Motor Company of Canada Limited started operations, and by 1913 there were approximately 50,0000 automobiles on Canadian roads. Following in Ford’s footsteps, General Motors and Chrysler eventually opened up Canadian plants to manufacture automobiles.

A black-and-white photograph of an automobile coming off the factory production line. There are groups of men on either side of the vehicle.

Last civilian passenger car built at the General Motors plant, Oshawa, Ontario [e000760672]

Domestic automobile manufacturing companies could not compete with the American companies and were eventually bought out, or went bankrupt. However, the Canadian subsidiaries of American companies flourished, and by 1923 Canada became the second largest producer and exporter of automobiles and parts.

A colour photograph of two men guiding the frame of a red station wagon onto a moving production line.

Lowering car onto production line tracks, Ford Motor Company of Canada [e010975565]

Today Canada continues to be a major producer and global exporter of automobiles and parts. The industry is the largest manufacturing sector in the country.

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Images of Restaurants now on Flickr

A black-and-white photograph of the exterior of a restaurant located on a dirt road in a remote area.

Restaurant at Entrance, Alberta [PA-100223]

The growth of restaurants correlates with the growth of cities. As trade routes expanded in ancient China and the Roman Empire, travelling merchants stopped at public eateries, such as inns, for rest and nourishment as they brought their merchandise to cities from the surrounding areas. Within a growing city’s confines, taverns and inns became the principal location for people to find simple local food, drink and shelter.

A black-and-white photograph of a woman carrying a tray with a teapot and cups on it as she exits a restaurant kitchen.

A server at Diana Sweets carries a tray with a teapot and cups out of the kitchen, Toronto, Ontario [PA-068091]

A black-and-white stereoscopic photograph of dozens of waiters standing at two rows of tables with chandeliers overhead, inside the Windsor Hotel, Montreal, Quebec.

Dozens of waiters standing at two rows of tables with chandeliers overhead, Windsor Hotel, Montreal, Quebec [e011093681]

It was not until the mid-18th century in France that luxury and specialized restaurants opened for those who could afford them. These early restaurants offered a greater variety of meat, vegetable and drink options on their menus, prepared in ways that were more elaborate. Other countries followed suit, and restaurant culture flourished throughout Europe and beyond.

A black-and-white photograph of the exterior of Nick's Chicken Barbecue restaurant. A neon sign in the window advertises “Good Food” and “Beer & Wine”.

Nick’s Chicken Barbecue restaurant, Quebec City, Quebec [PA-080674]

Restaurant options are plentiful in Canadian cities today, with cuisine from around the world offered at varying prices.

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Images of the Steel Industry now on Flickr

A black-and-white photograph of workers supervising the pouring of molten steel into moulds.

Workers supervise the pouring of molten steel at the Atlas Steel Company, Welland, Ontario [e000760732]

Steel is an alloy mainly of iron ore with some carbon. Its production is a major industry in Canada, currently concentrated in the provinces of Ontario and Quebec.

A black-and-white photograph of three women railroad workers wearing heavy work clothing and gloves while posing with their shovels.

Portrait of three railroad workers posing with their shovels, Stelco Steel Company of Canada, Hamilton, Ontario [e000762848]

A black-and-white photograph of a worker standing beside a furnace directing the pouring of molten steel into a ladle.

Worker stands beside a furnace directing the pouring of molten steel into a ladle, Stelco Steel Company of Canada, Hamilton, Ontario [e000760223]

Steel is a versatile material and is used to make a variety of products, such as barrels, fasteners, structures, home appliances, vehicle parts and even food containers. Like aluminum, steel is easily recycled for reuse. Many of Canada’s steel plants make steel from scrap.

A black-and-white photograph of a worker holding a pyrometer over his eyes to measure the temperature of molten steel.

Worker uses a pyrometer to measure the temperature of molten steel at the Sorel Steel plant, Quebec [e000760214]

Semi-finished steel blooms, slabs or billets are processed into shapes by rolling or forging for commercial and industrial products. Steel was first manufactured in Canada in the 1880s. By the early 1900s, manufacturing centres were established in Hamilton and Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, and Sydney, Nova Scotia. Production of steel increased during the Second World War and rapidly expanded during the postwar period.

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The George Ayoub fonds – a passion for ships

By Kelly Anne Griffin

Many people enjoy birdwatching, trainspotting or stargazing, but George Ayoub loved observing ships. Ship watching and nautical history fascinate many Canadians. This is no wonder, since our country has over 200,000 kilometres of coastline and almost 800,000 kilometres of freshwater shores.

George Ayoub was born in 1916 in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. In 1930, he became a sailor at age 14, with a lifelong passion for ships and maritime history. His collection, held at Library and Archives Canada, gives us a glimpse into the nautical past and the waterways that helped shape our nation and build our economy. The fonds includes over 20,000 of his photographs taken between 1940 and 1990 at various locations along our seaways, most notably the St. Lawrence Seaway, the Great Lakes, the Ottawa River and the Rideau Canal. The vast collection of images provides fascinating insight into the history of shipping as well as the use of leisure craft. The fonds also includes textual material that complements the photographs and that records not only the history of the shipping industry but also individual ships that sailed the waters.

St. Lawrence Seaway

The St. Lawrence Seaway, opened in 1959, transformed the shipping industry by opening the Great Lakes to ocean-going traffic. When the seaway opened, George Ayoub started to compile an important collection of records on the backgrounds of the different vessels that came to the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence Seaway during the 20th century. He also photographed many of these himself. Today, the St. Lawrence Seaway is one of the great ship canals of the world, carrying freight between the heart of North America and the rest of the world. The George Ayoub fonds contains numerous images that reflect the variety of vessels that travelled the seaway.

A black-and-white photograph of a moored tugboat. The crew is on the deck.

Jean-T on the St. Lawrence Seaway, Iroquois, Ontario, September 28, 1975. Credit: George Ayoub/Library and Archives Canada/George Ayoub fonds/e011213397. Copyright: Copyright assigned to Library and Archives Canada by copyright owner the Estate of George Ayoub

A black-and-white photograph of a large ship passing through the canal.

Kingdoc on the St. Lawrence Seaway, Iroquois, Ontario, September 5, 1965. Credit: George Ayoub/Library and Archives Canada/George Ayoub fonds/e011213399. Copyright: Copyright assigned to Library and Archives Canada by copyright owner the Estate of George Ayoub.

Rideau Canal and Ottawa River

Officially opened in 1832, the Rideau Canal is the oldest continuously operated canal system in North America. The War of 1812 made clear the need to have a navigable waterway connecting Lake Ontario to the Ottawa River, because traffic on the St. Lawrence River was vulnerable to attack. The huge undertaking provided a secure supply route from Montréal to Kingston that avoided the St. Lawrence.

The Rideau Canal locks provide wonderful boat-watching opportunities. Around many locks, onlookers often watch in fascination as the locks move the vessels along. The George Ayoub fonds includes many excellent photos, taken over the years, of boats passing through the locks.

A black-and-white photograph of a moored leisure vessel on a canal beside a large building.

Korab in front of the National Arts Centre, Rideau Canal, Ottawa, June 14, 1971. Credit: George Ayoub/Library and Archives Canada/George Ayoub fonds/e011213400. Copyright: Copyright assigned to Library and Archives Canada by copyright owner the Estate of George Ayoub

A black-and-white photograph of a small moored fire boat in a wooded stretch of waterway

St. John’s Fire Boat (Gatineau Boom Company) at a dock near Hull, Quebec, November 19, 1967. Credit: George Ayoub/Library and Archives Canada/George Ayoub fonds/e011213403. Copyright: Copyright assigned to Library and Archives Canada by copyright owner the Estate of George Ayoub.

A black-and-white photograph of a tugboat towing a sailboat across the water.

Sailing yacht Wild Harp pulled by tugboat TANAC V-222, September 10, 1972. Credit: George Ayoub/Library and Archives Canada/George Ayoub fonds/e011213404. Copyright: Copyright assigned to Library and Archives Canada by copyright owner the Estate of George Ayoub.

A black-and-white photograph of a medium-sized boat in the process of crossing a system of locks.

Templeton in the Rideau Locks, Ottawa, April 17, 1964. Credit: George Ayoub/Library and Archives Canada/George Ayoub fonds/e011213405. Copyright: Copyright assigned to Library and Archives Canada by copyright owner the Estate of George Ayoub.

Canada’s affinity with water is shaped by our vast and beautiful shorelines. Ship watching continues to be a major tourist attraction for many communities along waterways. From busy shipping routes to quiet, peaceful lakes, Canadian waterways truly help us live up to our motto, “a mari usque ad mare”: “from sea to sea.”

Related material


Kelly Anne Griffin is an archival assistant in the Science and Governance Private Archives Division of the Archives Branch at Library and Archives Canada.

Images of Chickens now on Flickr

A black-and-white photograph of a small boy. To the boy’s left is a white rooster on top of a pedestal.

Portrait of Henri Groulx, Lachine, Quebec [MIKAN 3194088]

Chickens are domesticated birds that we use for eggs and meat. There are a number of chicken producers and egg-laying hatcheries in each province. According to Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Ontario and Quebec have the highest concentration of producers followed by British Columbia and Alberta respectively.

A colour photograph of a man placing water dishes in an enclosure for chicks.

A man provides water for chicks in one of the Marshall Chicken Ranch hatcheries, Toronto, Ontario [MIKAN 4301626]

A black-and-white photograph of two women inspecting eggs, as they move along a conveyor belt, and placing them in cartons.

Ms. Hines and Ms. Dominey preparing eggs for consumers, Port Williams, Nova Scotia [MIKAN 4948583]

Chickens are not migratory, have a small territorial range, and cannot swim or fly well. People easily captured the birds and brought them along when moving to new locations. Domestication happened quickly. From family use to businesses servicing large urban populations, chickens have proven to be extremely versatile in terms of care and breeding.

A black-and-white photograph of a man feeding chickens next to their coop.

Poultry raising, Oromocto, New Brunswick [MIKAN 3643515]

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Images of Lobsters now on Flickr

A black-and-white photograph of a man holding up a large lobster with his left hand.

Dougal Doucette holds up the first large lobster of the season, Miminegash, Prince Edward Island [MIKAN 3612492]

The crustaceans known as lobsters include clawed and spiny (or rock) lobsters, as well as reef, slipper, furry (or coral) and squat lobsters.

A black-and-white photograph of a coastal village, with lobster boats in the background, lobster pots in the middle distance, and floating markers in the foreground.

Lobster pots and markers on shore, Sandford, Yarmouth County, Nova Scotia [MIKAN 3191692]

A colour photograph of two men, two women and a child around lobster traps as they look at some lobsters.

Two men, two women and a child beside lobsters and traps, Fundy National Park, New Brunswick [MIKAN 4293000]

The best-known lobster in Canada is the clawed Homarus americanus, found along the Atlantic coastline and the continental shelf from Labrador to North Carolina. This is the only species found naturally in Canadian waters. The largest Homarus americanus weighed over 20 kilograms and was caught off the coast of Nova Scotia in 1977.

A black-and-white photograph of a man helping a little girl sitting at a table with her lobster meal.

Jane Petrie and her lobster dinner, Prince Edward Island [MIKAN 4949865]

Considered a delicacy, lobster is a valuable seafood export for Canada. Exported around the world, the Homarus americanus is sent to markets in the United States, Japan, China and the European Union.

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Images of Cruises now on Flickr

Cruises are trips taken on ships or boats for leisure and may include stops along the way for vacation activities.

A black-and-white photograph of two girls and four boys sitting on the foredeck of the motorboat Queen.

Children on board the motorboat Queen for an all-day cruise from Waskesiu to Kingsmere Portage, Prince Albert National Park, Saskatchewan [MIKAN 3232476]

The first passenger cruise services began in Europe during the 1840s. Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation Company (P&O) initially offered a few stops in the Mediterranean Sea and the United Kingdom. P&O underwent rapid expansion during the second half of the 19th century and into the early 20th century, and featured more and more destinations around the world.

A black-and-white photograph of the interior of the steamer Montreal, showing a large carpeted sitting room with numerous cushioned chairs.

Interior of the steamer Montreal [MIKAN 3380611]

The company was the predecessor for today’s modern cruise lines, which cross the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, and travel the East and West coasts of Canada and the rest of North America. Canadians have access not only to ocean destinations, but also to an abundance of lake and river cruises.

A colour photograph of a boy playing shuffleboard, watched by a man and a woman on the Canadian Pacific Railway cruise ship Assiniboia.

Passengers play shuffleboard on the Canadian Pacific Railway cruise ship Assiniboia, Georgian Bay, Ontario [MIKAN 4312065]

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