Murdoch to Rogers (Permanent Under-Secretary)
11th May 1868
I have to acknowledge your letter of 7th inst. with the copy of a despatch from the Governor of British Columbia enclosing an Ordinance "to provide for the settlement of all outstanding questions relating to the sale of land for taxes in Vancouver Island."
2. It appears that numerous sales of land had been made in Vancouver Island under the Real Estate Tax Act 1860 and an Amending Act 1862, to satisfy arrears of taxesManuscript image imposed by those Acts. The sales, however, not having been made in accordance with the requirements of the Acts are defective in title and call for legislative action. If there had been nothing more in the case than the mere non-observance of technical formalities the obvious and simplest remedy would be an Ordinance validating the sales and the titles derived from them. But it appears from the report of a Commission appointed by the Governor of B. Columbia to enquire into all matters connected with these sales, that not only in no instance were the legal formalities observed,Manuscript image but that in numerous instances much injustice had been committed towards the owners of the land. In some cases property had been sold on which the taxes had been paid, and in all cases it had been sold at prices greatly below its value.
3. The remedy adopted by the Local Legislature is the present Ordinance not to validate, but (sections 1, 2, 3, & 4) to annul all sales made for nonpayment of taxes under the Real Estate Tax Acts & to repay to the purchasers from the public Treasury the purchase money, with interest at the extreme Colonial rate of 24 per cent per annum, and to make the sum so repaidManuscript image and the subsequently accrued taxes a primary charge on the lands in favour of the Government. The Ordinance then proceeds to require (sections 5, 6, & 7) that lists of these charges and taxes should be published in the Government Gazette for three consecutive months, and if at the end of the three months the debt is not paid, the Governor is empowered to order an entry to be made on the land and a notice of entry to be registered with the Registrar of Titles, whereupon the lands are to be deemed to have passed by operation of Law into the possession of the Crown as demesneManuscript image Lands. If within two years the debt should be discharged by means of the rent and proceeds, the land is to be reconveyed to the original owner—but if not, the Governor (after the lapse of six months more and monthly publications during that time of notices in the Government Gazette) is authorized to sell the land by public auction in either one or more lots, to pay out of the proceeds the sums due to the Crown, and to hold the balance for the benefit of the owner of the lands.
4. The Commissioners of Inquiry in their report state that the purchasers under the defectiveManuscript image sales not having taken possession of or utilized their purchases can sustain but little injury, & express their deliberate & unanimous opinion that fair and substantial justice will be done, and a great embarrassment removed, by the proposed mode of settling these outstanding questions. The Attorney General and Governor Seymour approve of the measure, and under the peculiar circumstances of the case no sufficient ground occurs to us for dissenting from the general conclusions of the Legislative and Executive Authorities of theManuscript image Colony. I would submit, therefore, that the Ordinance be left to its operation.
5. The subordinate questions, however, raised by the Duke of Buckingham & Chandos' despatch to the Governor of 8th Febry last, namely, as to how the irregularities connected with the sales so long escaped detection—who were the public officers charged with them—whether they are still in the public service—and in what way remunerated, cannot be dealt with until the Governor's answer has been received.
I have the honor to be
Your obedient
Humble Servant
T.W.C. Murdoch
Minutes by CO staff
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CC 12 May
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Sir F. Rogers
The Land Board submit that this Ordinance be left to its operation, & under the circumstances I suppose it should be confirmed.
Should not the Govr's attention be called to the last paragraph of the despatch of 8 Feby calling for a report upon the irregularities committed?
HTH 12/5
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The matter is of such a kind that it can only be dealt with by local authority somewhat roughly & arbitrarily applied, and this Act places the Govt in a position so to deal with it. But the provisions of the Act if literally carried out wd in many conceivable cases work much injustice. It may, e.g. be found on the one hand that certain of the purchasers have utilized their land or incurred expenses on the faith of their ownership—while on the other persons who have paid their taxes & have had their lands illegally sold cannot properly be called on to buy off purchasers to whom the Govt have illegally sold their property (as observed by Mr Holland on 4573).Manuscript image I think that the Govt ought to be armed with the necessary power to enable them with the advice of a Commission or Board of competent persons to set up the titles of such purchases as cd make a case of hardship, and to compensate from Public Funds such purchasers as had bought lands wh there was no substantial ground for selling.
On this I shd be disposed to say that the Orde had not been submitted to HM but wd be allowed to remain in operation if provision to the above effect were made.
FR 12/5
CBA 15/5
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Let me see draft when written.
B&C 15/5
Other documents included in the file
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Draft reply, Buckingham to Seymour, No. 30, 24 May 1868 advising Seymour of the concerns regarding the “Ordinance "to provide for the settlement of all outstanding questions relating to the Sale of land for taxes in Vancouvers Island"” and suggesting alterations to the ordinance, which would enable Buckingham to advise “Her Majesty” not to disallow the ordinance.
Minutes by CO staff
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Mr Holland
See note last page.
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I have made an alteration as suggested.