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U of A transfers land it did not even realize it owned to Royal Canadian Legion

The land was willed to the U of A in 1923 from a former professor

The University of Alberta transferred land ownership of a small historical site — land it was not aware it even owned in the first place — at Fort Assiniboine to the Royal Canadian Legion.

On October 18, after receiving unanimous approval from the Board of Governors, the highest decision-making body at the university, the university transferred ownership of 625 square feet of land to the Royal Canadian Legion. Both the Legion and U of A were not aware of the fact that the land in question was owned by the university until earlier this year. 

The Legion has a cenotaph in front of their building in Fort Assiniboine. For 84 years, the organization had maintained the cenotaph without realizing the land under it was owned by the U of A. 

In an interview Craig Moore, Director of U of A Real Estate Services, said the Legion called him in May of 2019 to ask for permission to repair the cenotaph. 

“They said there was a cenotaph in front of their building that needed repair,” Moore recounted. “They also said that under the cenotaph, the land is owned by the U of A. To which I said, ‘really?’”

“I had no idea,” Moore added. “I asked around, nobody else had any idea either.”

“Nobody knew this land existed,” he said. “I have a list of all the land the university owns in the province. This was not on the list.”

Moore said he started an archival investigation to find the story behind this land which the U of A owned. After two days of archival searching, he confirmed the story of how the university ended up owning the land.

Fort Assiniboine is 150 kilometres north of Edmonton. The first documented fur trade site was located there in approximately 1823 to 1824. In 1913, Dr. Joseph Ephraim State — a professor at the university — acquired 500 plus acres of land, including where the original trading post had been located. He willed the land to the university in 1923 when he passed away.

The university proceeded to subdivide, develop, and sell the lots from 1927-57. Moore said the university sold parts of the land off as needs arose. This included lots for homes, schools, a blacksmith shop, churches, and community centres. After Fort Assiniboine incorporated as a village, the university transferred control of the remainder of the land to the village administration.

In 1935, the Federal Government’s Commissioner of National Parks stated Historical Sites and Monuments had recommended the original trading post site of Fort Assiniboine be marked with a memorial in the form of a field cenotaph with an attached bronze tablet. The university at the time authorized land to be made available for this monument. That piece of land, 625 square feet, was never transferred from the university’s control. 

According to Moore, the Legion pulled the title for the land of the cenotaph after maintaining it for 84 years and discovered it actually was not theirs.

Moore told the Legion to fix the cenotaph. After their call, Moore decided to initiate steps to transfer control of the land to the Legion.

“There is no reason for us [the U of A] to have it,” he said. “I thought it’d be best for them, the caretakers to actually legally own the land.”

The land transfer was completed at “nominal value.” According to Moore, this meant the land was transferred with only a placeholder number for the contract but no actual money will change hands.

Now that the land transfer was approved, Moore said he will draft a contract for the Royal Canadian Legion in Assiniboine. Once signed, the title will transfer to them. 

Moore said he enjoyed the “historical expedition” and that he is “pleased” the Legion will have complete control of the land the cenotaph is on.

“My guess is that no one at the university thought about the land since the 50’s,” he said. “Now it will be back in the hands of people who care for it.”

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Adam Lachacz

Adam Lachacz is the 2019-20 News Editor at The Gateway and previous Staff Reporter from 2018-19. He is a fourth-year student studying history and political science. While working for The Gateway he continues the tradition of turning coffee into copy.

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