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- British Columbia. Dept. of the Provincial Secretary
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The Dept. of the Provincial Secretary was established in 1872. Prior to that, the origins of this department was in the offices of the Colonial Secretaries for the Colony of Vancouver Island (1863-1866), the Colony of British Columbia (1864-1866) and the united colony of British Columbia (1866-1871). When British Columbia joined confederation in 1871, the name Colonial Secretary remained in place until April 1872 when a Provincial Secretary was named to assume the duties and functions (SBC 1872, c. 15).
The mandate of the Provincial Secretary included all the powers, duties and functions held by provincial secretaries and registrars in other provinces of the Dominion of Canada. They included being the keeper of the Great Seal of the Province, with the authority to issues letters patent and commissions, and being the keeper of all registers and archives of the province and previous governments of the province. As with other departments, it was also the duty of the Provincial Secretary to make an annual report to the Lieutenant-Governor. The first annual report was produced in 1872.
At various times, different agencies have been under the direction of the Provincial Secretary such as treasury and audit branches, Bureau of Mines, gold commissioners, Returned Soldiers’ Commission, Provincial Library and Archives, Provincial Board of Health, Vital Statistics, Provincial Home, and others. In most instances these agencies were later transferred to the control of new ministries established to administer the specific function or functions. At various times and for varying periods, the Provincial Secretary was responsible for industrial schools, mothers’ pensions, administration of the Infants’ Act, protection of historic sites, and arbitration of labour disputes. In 1947, the Dept. of the Provincial Secretary administered the Civil Service Commission, Government Printing Bureau, Superannuation Commission, mental hospitals, institution farms, homes for the aged, inspector of hospitals, and the Elections Act. In 1976, with the addition of travel and tourism functions from the Dept. of Recreation and Travel Industry, the Dept. of the Provincial Secretary was renamed the Ministry of the Provincial Secretary and Travel Industry (OIC 3199/76).
Scope and content
The series contains records pertaining to the care of indigents and destitute persons created by the Dept. of the Provincial Secretary between 1911 and 1925. Files consist of applications for relief, supporting documents from police constables and government agents, case files, administrative reports, and general correspondence. Reports on unemployment in specific communities in British Columbia, ca. 1911-1918 are also included.
Records created prior to 1923 were filed numerically and constituted a separate records series within the Provincial Secretary's office. Records created after 1923 were kept alphabetically, by name of applicant. Regrettably, contemporary registers and indices for these records have not survived.
Although it was "the duty of every city and district municipality to make suitable provision for its poor" [Municipal Act, RSBC 1911, c.170 s.526], the Department of the Provincial Secretary was largely responsible for the care of indigents and other destitute people in British Columbia. In fact, prior to the creation of the Department of Health and Welfare in 1946, the Provincial Secretary's office was often the only source of support for deserted wives and children, indigent widows and elderly persons, disabled workers and others in need of public welfare. The Provincial Secretary administered funds to such groups through charitable accounts, the Workmen's Compensation Board, the Provincial Board of Health, and other agencies. At the local level, relief payments were often distributed by Provincial Police constables or Government Agents.
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