Ontario's Historical Plaques 

Discover Ontario's history as told through its plaques

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Rivers and Streams Act of 1884

Rivers and Streams Act of 1884

Photos by contributor Tracey Wark - Posted May, 2011

Rivers and Streams Act of 1884

Plaque Location

The County of Lanark
The Township of Lanark Highlands
On the shore of Lake Dalhousie, at the side of Lavant Mill Road
2 km north of Road 12 (McDonalds Corners Road)
about 22 km west of Lanark

Coordinates: N 44 57.185 W 76 35.758


Plaque Text

In the 1870s, Boyd Caldwell and Peter McLaren both owned timber rights on the upper Mississippi River. McLaren built a dam and timber slide at High Falls and refused to let Caldwell use the slide. Caldwell appealed to the Liberal provincial government of Oliver Mowat, which passed the Rivers and Streams Act in 1881. This made it legal to use private improvements on a watercourse if compensation was paid to the owner. McLaren appealed to the courts and to the Conservative federal government of John A. Macdonald. Macdonald disallowed the act three times, to protect the rights of property holders. Mowat and Macdonald disagreed over provincial authority to legislate in matters of property rights, as granted at Confederation. The Judicial Committee of the Privy Council ultimately sided with Caldwell, and Mowat's government passed the Rivers and Streams Act again in 1884. This legal decision recognized that use of Canadian waterways could not be blocked by private interests and helped establish a fundamental principle in federal-provincial relations.

Related Ontario plaque
Sir Oliver Mowat 1820-1903

Related Toronto plaques
Sir Oliver Mowat 1820-1903
Sir John A. Macdonald 1815-1891


Assorted Events

Lanark Highlands Plaques

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