British Columbia, including the colonies before the province came into existence, has always maintained a system for recording ownership and interests in private land.

Land Titles: The Modified Torrens System Proves Validity of Title

Land title in British Columbia is based on the principles of the "Torrens system" of land title registration. Sir Robert Richard Torrens, former premier of South Australia, was instrumental in the implementation of this unique and efficient system of dealing with land. Based on his experience in registering the ownership of ocean vessels under merchant shipping laws, Torrens devised a method of making the land registry conclusive, as the government or its agent guarantees an indefeasible title. The system eliminates the need for historical searches to prove validity of title.

This type of land title system provides an up-to-date official and public record of who owns the land, and the charges and interests that relate to land titles. The modified Torrens system, as it is called in BC, provides the foundation for all real property business and ownership in the province. It makes land ownership and transfers simple and certain. It provides certainty to both the seller and the purchaser.

The system, because it is conclusive, also allows title to be "assured". Such assurance is provided through a guarantee that, should an error be made in a title, individuals who suffer a loss will be compensated.

Land Surveys: Maintaining the Cadastral Fabric of BC

Land surveys are referred to as "cadastral" which comes from the French word referring to the register of lands. The "cadastral fabric" of BC refers to the property boundaries, survey monuments, legal documents, maps, and regulations which are required to make the system work.

The earliest survey record in the Crown Land Registry dates back to December 15, 1851 and was completed by Joseph Despard Pemberton, Colonial Surveyor on behalf of the Hudson's Bay Company. Pemberton was later named the first Surveyor General of the Colony of Vancouver Island in 1858. The position has evolved over time with 17 Surveyors General since the creation of the Corporation of BC Land Surveyors in 1905. The land surveyors' professional organization became the Association of BC Land Surveyors in 2005.

During the time of large scale immigration and land settlement, the role of the Surveyor General was of vital importance in the initial division of Crown lands. Although the level of Crown land settlement has subsided over the years, the role of the Surveyor General today focuses on ensuring that the system and standards of cadastral surveys are maintained in the province.

Historical Links

The following links to BC Archives Government Records Catalogue may be of value to those interested in the Land Survey history of BC.