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Assisting New Immigrants
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The government had a plan. Some Americans had been threatening to take over Canadian lands. British Columbia had joined Canada, on the promise of a railway from sea to sea.

The only problem was that huge expanse of land now called Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta. That empty land needed to be filled with farmers, ranchers and towns.

The government was keen to settle the west. In 1872, it passed the Dominion Land Act. This gave an energetic farmer 160 acres of land free. All he had to do was build a house on the land, plant crops and live there for at least three years.

This wasn't as easy as it sounds - with few neighbours, farmers had to rely upon themselves and their families. Sometimes the isolation was just too much. Sometimes the weather turned against them and either burned their crops or froze them. It was a hard life. In the early days about one-third of all homesteaders moved on.

Slowly though, settlers began to arrive. The first were from Ontario and the United States. By 1896, a flood of immigrants from Europe began to arrive.

Our men met the trains and stagecoaches. We kept track of who arrived in the area, just in case we had trouble later on. We gave the settlers what advice we could - what land was left in the area, whether it was good for farming, what crops had grown well the previous year.

Some of our men had been farmers before they joined the NWMP so they could speak knowledgeably about crops and soil. We would give seed grain to new arrivals and kept an eye on the health of their animals - we didn't want any diseases spreading to other livestock!

We still patrolled the trails, in fact, we established more outposts and made more patrols. We looked out for horse thieves and stolen cattle. In the southern part of the territory, Canadian ranchers needed huge tracts of land to graze their cattle.

We often herded American cattle back across the line, to protect our own grasslands. We rode from ranch to ranch, settler to settler, to check up on folks.

Some say that we made more visits to settlers with pretty daughters, but I can assure you that we treated everyone fairly! We gave them the latest news, brought them their mail and gave them a helping hand if they needed it. We made sure that no one had been injured and was alone, far from help, or starving after a particularly hard winter.

You could say that we were immigration officers, land men, agriculture experts, and welfare workers as well as policemen. By 1914, there were over a million settlers on the prairies, and we had helped most of them.
People came from the United States and Europe to homestead.
People came from the United States and Europe to homestead.

The police checked on the settlers whenever they could.
The police checked on the settlers whenever they could.

Animals coming north over the border were inspected for brands and disease.
Animals coming north over the border were inspected for brands and disease.

 
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6. The Growth of the Force