A brief history of the SLSA

by J.H. Webb, SLS (Life Member), CLS, ALS (Life Member)

The first known legal land survey in modern-day Saskatchewan and Alberta under the western survey system was performed in 1873 by Mr. W. S. Gore, Dominion Land Surveyor. His surveys were performed around the early settlements of Fort Qu'Appelle, Prince Albert, Fort La Come, Fort Ellice and others.

Quoting from the book Vision of an Ordered Land:

"Gores intrusion into the vast empty space of what so recently Captain W. B. Butler had called the 'Great Lone Land' was just another of the many moves afoot all heading west to bring about drastic changes in the prairies way of life. And behind him were to come others; surveyors, settlers, and the Mounted Police."

Someone has said:

"Our eyes are placed in front, because it is more important to look forward than to look back."

However, I believe that when one wants to explore, it seems well to look back as well as forward if we want to appreciate the future.

The first land survey to establish one of Saskatchewan's future boundaries was the joint British-American Commission that surveyed and established the 49th parallel of latitude in 1872. This boundary eventually became the South limit of Saskatchewan.

The next potential boundary for Saskatchewan turned out to be the revised Western boundary of Manitoba, which was established in 1881. This demarcation between Manitoba and the North West Territories was to be the centre of the road allowance running north-south between the 29th and 30th ranges, west of the Principal Meridian. It extended north to the centre of the road allowance up to the 12th baseline or north boundary of Township 44, eventually running north along the 2nd Meridian to the 60th parallel of latitude.

To this day, no one can understand why the government of that era chose such a jogged boundary instead of making it conform to the 2nd Meridian.

The western boundary of Saskatchewan was constituted in The Saskatchewan Act of 1905 as "the 4th Meridian of the Dominion Lands System of Survey". The actual survey of the 4th Meridian had begun in 1879 as part of the western survey system.

Thus the Province of Saskatchewan was formed by the "Act of Parliament" in 1905 (4-5 Edward V11 Cap 42), with the North boundary being reported as "the parallel of the 60th degree of North latitude". The survey of the northern limit of Saskatchewan was commenced in 1953 and completed in 1959.

Early in 1906, in Edmonton, North West Territory, a group of Dominion Land Surveyors sat down to discuss the possibility of forming an Alberta-Saskatchewan surveyors association along with the Province of Manitoba. However, due to insurmountable circumstances, the idea was dropped. It was also felt that the surveyors in private practice should take the lead and form an association. The Manitoba land surveyors already had their own association, thus they could see no advantage in joining with a bunch of newcomers out west.

The need for an association of land surveyors was two-fold. Firstly to insure that a high standard of professionalism be maintained, and secondly that subdivision plans be properly recorded.

It should be noted that, prior to the formation of our association, the Lieutenant-Governor-in-council had appointed a Board of Examiners. They held their first meeting on December 31,1909 shortly after the creation of "The Land Surveyors Act". The Saskatchewan Land Surveyor had arrived but with no self-power or discipline for the surveyor since this authority was vested in the Board of Examiners. The original Board also established the date for the annual meetings -the first Monday in March.

In 1906 there was concern about the role that an association could perform to protect the public. Mr. F. J. Robinson, (Commission number 1, 1910) Deputy Commissioner of Public Works, Saskatchewan wrote;

"I consider that the registration of subdivision plans should be protected in order that everyone who can squint through a transit will not be entitled to file plans in a Land Titles Office."

At the opening session of the first legislature of Saskatchewan, an Act Respecting Public Works was given Royal assent on May 26,1906. This Act defined such terms as "surveyor", "district surveyor" and "engineer". At the same time, "The Land Titles Act" established the Torrens system of land titles in Saskatchewan.

Three years later, on May 27, 1909 the district land surveyors of the Department of Public works held a meeting in Regina to organize the proper legislation for a Saskatchewan Land Surveyors Association. I have been unable to locate information as to why the land surveyors in private practice did not initiate the formation of such a body. In 1909 there were 20 surveyors (DLS's) in private practice in Saskatchewan including W. R. Reilly, T. H. Wiggins, A. J. Cote, H. K. Moberley, and others. Dominion Land Surveyors who participated in this first meeting consisted of Messrs. A. J. Mcpherson, H. S. Carpenter, W. W. Meadows, E. H. Phillips, W. R. Reilly, J. D. Shepley, W. M. Stewart, Cyrus Carrol, W. T. Thompson, C. W. Clarke, M. B. Weekes, E. W. Walker and A. C. Garner. The committee prepared a draft bill to control the profession of land surveying. This became statutory law on December 18, 1909 under The Land Surveyors Act. Thus the Saskatchewan land surveyor was created.

I would also point out that the formation of the new Province of Saskatchewan in 1905, along with the new Provincial land surveyors association, created a rift between some of the Dominion Land Surveyors and the soon to be newly commissioned provincial surveyors. Many of the western Dominion Land Surveyors felt that they would no longer be in a position to survey provincial lands. It was their belief that they should be grandfathered into the provincial association without payment of dues or examinations. It took many years for this ill feeling to disappear. However, the first twenty six Commissions of the association were issued in 1910.

Quoting from the annual report of the Saskatchewan Land Surveyors Association in 1916:

"The birth of the Saskatchewan Land Surveyors Association may be said to have taken place at a meeting of 'The District Surveyors and Engineers of the Province, in the employ of the Provincial Government', which was held in Regina on May 27, 1909."

In March 1910 a motion was passed to form an association, with the meeting being held in the office of the District Surveyor in Regina. Thus the voluntary association was brought into being with 13 members.

The officers were;

President:  J. L. R. Parsons

Vice President: W. R. Reilly

Sec. Treas.: M. B. Weekes

Exec. Committee: A. C. Garner, H. K. Moberly

Annual fees were set at $2. A motion was passed to have the annual meeting the Wednesday following the first Monday in March. This was later changed back to the first Monday in March.

On March 8, 1911 a constitution and bylaws were adopted and the decision was made to proceed towards incorporation.

At the 2nd annual meeting in Regina, March 6, 1912 the code of ethics was adopted and they also proceeded towards the enactment of a Surveys Act.

Quote from 1913 meeting:

"After many attempts towards incorporation, the association, on January 25, 1913 received recognition under 'An Act Respecting Benevolent and Other Societies."

Finally, after many meetings, the Saskatchewan Land Surveyors Act became effective on December 19, 1913, replacing the Land Surveyors Act of 1909.

By this new act, the Saskatchewan Land Surveyors Association was formally achieved and continued under the name, "The Saskatchewan Land Surveyors Association" as "A body politic and corporate with perpetual succession and a common seal."

The prime powers of the Act gave us the control of examination for a commission and the right to practice as a surveyor of lands in Saskatchewan. Also at this time, provision was made for a Board of Examiners to be appointed by the executive council of the association along with the discipline of members within the association - a giant step forward.

This would appear to be the first stage of our development.

In 1914, the council appointed standing committees with many of these committees still on our books.

In 1923 the Act was amended to provide affiliation with the University of Saskatchewan as the controller of the examination of candidates for admission to study or practise as Saskatchewan Land Surveyors. For the next 20 years the association was in the doldrums. The only achievement being the replacement of the Saskatchewan and Special Surveys Act by the Land Surveys Act of 1933.

The start of our next evolution period came around 1948 when the Saskatchewan Land Surveyors Act was amended - namely, the names of all land surveyors, including the bylaws, regulations and orders had to be filed with the Provincial Secretary. Also the Minister of Highways was given charge of the operation of our Act. This was the year that the association saw the start of an influx of young surveyors for the association.

I suppose the fourth or modern post-war era has certainly seen our association progress in all areas.

The coming into force of the new Act Respecting Land Surveyors and Professional Surveyors saw the dawn of our fifth era which will certainly challenge the Professional Land Surveyor in the future.

- "Men and Meridians"
- "Vision of an Ordered Land"
- "The Canadian Surveyor"
- Annual Reports of the Saskatchewan Land Surveyors' Association