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The Ontario Archives Scope of its Operations   By:

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(Paper read at the twenty seventh annual meeting of the American Historical Association, held at Buffalo, N. Y., December 27 30, 1911)



LL. D., LITT. D., F. S. A., SCOT. EDIN.

Reprinted from the Annual Report of the American Historical Association for 1911, pages 353 362



By ALEXANDER FRASER, Provincial Archivist.

The line of demarcation between the Canadian or Dominion archives and the Ontario or other provincial archives is somewhat similar to that between the Federal and State archives in the United States. It consists with the scope of the jurisdiction of the Dominion or major commonwealth, and the narrower or minor jurisdiction of the Province. This constitutes a clearly defined boundary within which both work without conflict or overlapping of interests. Our public charter is an imperial statute entitled the British North America act, and to day, when there are nine fully constituted, autonomous Provinces within the Dominion of Canada, it is interesting to recall that when the British North America act became law in 1867 the subtitle set forth that it was "An act for the union of Canada, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick, and the government thereof; and for purposes connected therewith."

This act provides for the government of Ontario a lieutenant governor, who represents the Crown; an executive council of ministers of state and a legislature composed of duly elected representatives of the people. To this body the act secures exclusive legislative powers in Ontario and Quebec, in the matter of Crown lands, forests and mines; education, from the public common school to the university; municipal government, institutions and laws; incorporation of chartered companies commercial, financial, professional, or social; solemnization of marriage, involving family history, vital statistics, etc.; property and civil rights; administration of justice, embracing both civil and criminal jurisdiction; agriculture and immigration, under which municipal, industrial, and agricultural statistics are collected, tabulated, and published; the founding and maintenance of provincial institutions such as hospitals, asylums, reformatories, prisons, and institutions for the instruction of the deaf and dumb and the blind; offices for the local registration of deeds, titles to land; the licensing of shops, taverns, hotels, auctioneers, etc.; the erection of local public works; the authorization and regulation of transportation not interprovincial.

In short the Provincial Government gets close to the life of the people and touches its business and social sides intimately. As at present constituted the ministry comprises the departments of: The attorney general, dealing with the administration of law; the provincial secretary, controlling registration, and the public institutions; the provincial treasurer, dealing with the public accounts; agriculture; lands, forests, and mines; public works; and education. The prime minister is statutorily president of the council and head of the ministry. Besides these and exercising semi ministerial or departmental functions are two commissions, the hydro electric commission and the Government railway commission. These, with the legislature itself, are the departments of government in which our archives originate.

Archives we have defined as the records, the business papers, of the province having a permanent value. All archives need not be of historical value in the narrow sense. Public documents may have a business or record value apart from history, yet it would be hard to say that any given document might not be found useful in some way in connection with history... Continue reading book >>

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