Crown Land Patents – Should I get one? by Shirley Dolan

Published September 1, 2018
Shirley Dolan

Shirley Dolan

This article was first published in the OLA ENews in October 2013. We are still receiving a number of calls and emails asking about They want to know what they are, if they should get one, and where they can obtain a copy, so we have updated the links in the article and republished it again. We hope this provides some assistance for those looking for information on their property.

The first question is easy to answer: Crown Land Patents also referred to as Crown Grant or Letters Patent are documents used to transfer public (Crown Land) into private ownership. The Patents spell out any reservations or conditions under which the land is transferred.  For example, many of the Patents issued to settlers in the 19th century reserve pine, silver and gold for the Crown. In Ontario, 87% of the land is still held by the Crown and patents are still used today on the rare occasion when the government transfers public land to a private owner.  The Archives of Ontario website has an interesting description of the Patent process at http://www.archives.gov.on.ca/en/access//documents/research_guide_215_grant_to_patent.pdf.

The second question: “should I get my Patent?” is a little more difficult to answer. It’s really a personal choice. However, the Courts have stated that Crown Land Patents are legal documents and combined with a title search and other land registry documents such as surveys and easements, they are an essential tool for protecting your rights to your property.  The Patent is the root of title; the title search will reveal what other transactions took place after the land became privately owned. There is anecdotal evidence that government officials respect these documents. Take, for example, the tale of the two quarry owners and the MNR (Landowner Magazine June/July 2012). Two long time quarry owners near Mactier, Ontario were approached by The Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) with a contract obligating them to comply with a list of actions under the Endangered Species Act. One of the owners refused to sign, showed his Patent for the property to the MNR, and told them to get off his land. He never heard from them again.  The other owner, we understand, signed the contract, effectively granting the MNR oversight of his property forever. Lawyers in Ontario are only required to do a 40 year title search when property is transferred from one owner to another. To avoid future surprises, it may be wise to carry the search back to the Patent. This is the only way you can be assured that you are aware of all easements or covenants attached to your property.

There are a number of institutions in Ontario that hold land records, including copies of Crown Land Patents. Library and Archives Canada in Ottawa has digitized copies of petitions for land grants dating from the late 1700s.  See http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/microform-digitization/006003-130-0011-e.html?PHPSESSID=npfo6qij0n1rpue06msk2mqnj1.

Another option is the Archives of Ontario in Toronto. They apparently have copies of land registry documents that you can view and copy, including the Crown Land Patents and they have a reading room where you can do your own research. Their website is at http://www.archives.gov.on.ca/en/tracing/the_records.aspx and is geared towards genealogy searches.  Scroll down to the heading Land Records to see the information on Crown Land Patents.

The option that the OLA is most familiar with is to apply to the Ministry of Natural Resources Crown Land Registry Office in Peterborough. Here is a link to their information page https://www.ontario.ca/page/crown-patents.  An explanation of how to apply can be found on this page. The OLA recommends asking for a certified copy which is usually $50.

Local land registry offices are another source of land records from deeds, mortgages and plans of survey and are located throughout Ontario. A list of offices can be found at https://www.ontario.ca/page/land-registry-offices-lro. A land registry office is where you would go to do your title search.  Records can be copied for a fee. Many of the older records are stored on microfiche and are sometimes hard to decipher.

Whether or not you decide to get a copy of your Patent, it is an interesting journey to see in the official records, the history of your property from the time it was granted to the first settler to the present day.

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