Wednesday, May 6, 2015

7. Proposal for new “Homesteading” legislation for pioneers/refugees


"Homesteading laws" of the past need to be revitalized and adapted to meet the needs of the present.

New legislation will be necessary to legally define the rights of new pioneers as well as to protect the government sovereign lands.

A bit of history

Below is a historical outline of similar legislation in USA and Canada.

Link to Wikipedia article:

In summary:

The Homestead Acts were several United States federal laws that gave an applicant ownership of up to 160 acres of land (about 800m x 800m called a “homestead” at little or no cost. Between 1862 and 1934, the federal government granted 1.6 million homesteads. Homesteading was discontinued in 1976, except in Alaska, where it continued until 1986. About 40 % of the applicants were able to complete the requirements and obtain title to their homesteaded land. The requirements were that the homesteader was a US citizen or have filed a declaration of intention to become a citizen and was willing to settle on and farm the land for at least five years.

In 1916, the Stock-Raising Homestead Act was passed for settlers seeking 640 acres public land for ranching purposes. Settlers found land and staked their claims, usually in individual family units, although others formed closer knit communities. Often, the homestead consisted of several buildings or structures besides the main house.The Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 ended homesteading.  By that time, federal government policy had shifted to retaining control of public lands. The only exception to this new policy was in Alaska, for which the law allowed homesteading until 1986.

Link to Wikipedia article:

In summary:

In 1871, the Imperial Crown obtained the consent of the indigenous nations for the taking up of lands "for immigration and settlement". The Dominion Lands Act was an 1872 Canadian law that aimed to encourage the settlement of the Canadian Prairies, and to help prevent the area being claimed by the United States. The Act was closely based on the United States Homestead Act, setting conditions in which the western lands could be settled and their natural resources developed. In order to settle the area, Canada invited mass emigration by European and American pioneers, as well as settlers from eastern Canada. It echoed the American homestead system by offering ownership of 160 acres of land free (except for a small registration fee) to any man over 18 or any woman heading a household. They did not need to be British subjects, but had to live on the plot and improve it. The had to agree to cultivate at least 40 acres and build a permanent dwelling on it within three years.

Bloc settlements were encouraged and allowed associations of 10 or more settlers to group their houses together to form a settlement to fulfil their cultivation obligations on their own homestead while residing in a hamlet. Claimants were limited to areas further than 32 km from any railway as much of the land closer were granted to the railways. Since it was extremely difficult to farm wheat profitably if you had to transport it over 32 km by wagon, this was a major discouragement.

From 1930 onwards, the Act only applied to the public lands in the Northwest Territories. The homestead provisions of the Act, designed to encourage agricultural settlement on the prairies, had little application to the conditions in the Northwest Territories. Parliament finally repealed the Act in 1950, replacing it with the Territorial Lands Act, which was better adapted to the conditions in the Territories. The new Act did not contain any homesteading provisions.

What is needed now

It is clear that a new homesteading law for refugees has to be very different from the homesteading laws of the past. The new laws, like the laws of the past have to guarantee that the pioneers, when the fulfill certain requirements of homesteading can be owners of their developed settlements and can become tax paying citizens. The main differences from the old laws are:
  • Instead of needing to populate lands it is now a need to provide a place for refugees to live in freedom and peace.
  • Instead of needing to farm lands, it is now a need to provide tourist facilities. 
  • Instead of 160 acers far away from railways and roads it is now a smaller plot close to them.
The new pioneers can provide various services:
  • gas stations
  • restaurants
  • tourist accommodations
  • High security prison
  • make trails for horseback ridinf and hiking in the summer and skiidooing and X-country skiing in the winter
  • boating
  • fishing
  • hunting
  • wood products (lumber for building, pulp for paper and fire wood)
Proposed requirements for requirements needed to successfully complete the homestead

Within a time frame of 3 years:
  • Build a private house 
  • Demonstrate sufficient English or French language skill
  • Demonstrate self-sufficiency within the community
  • Demonstrate constant improvement to your plot of land (clearing it of trees to sell the lumber and fencing it for grazing purposes.
Questions that need answers:

What happens when:
  • Pioneers are "unwilling" or "unable because of illness" to complete their homesteads..
One possibility proposed:
  • The pioneers of a community agree to support any pioneer who is unwilling to complete their homesteads or unable to complete their homestead because of health reasons. This is the approach taken in the Swiss military (as far as I understand). When a soldier is unable to or unwilling to continue on his field exercise where he has to walk great distances carrying a heavy backpack, then his fellow soldiers must carry him and/or his pack. 
  • Of course the unwilling and unable pioneers have the choice of freely returning to the country they originally fled from if they can obtain the necessary visa and pay for their return fare.
  • Unwilling pioneers who are supported by their fellow pioneers have the choice to "give it another try" and start their homesteading again from the beginning.
  • Unable pioneers who due to illness are supported by their fellow pioneers have the choice to "continue where they left off" when they are able to. 
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