U of A donates land it didn't know it owned to Fort Assiniboine legion

The University of Alberta is transferring an apartment-sized plot of land it was unaware it owned to the Royal Canadian Legion in Fort Assiniboine, Alta.

‘We didn’t even know it was there,’ said university's director of real estate

The cenotaph and trading post monument sit on a plot of land owned by the University of Alberta in front of the Royal Canadian Legion in Fort Assiniboine. (Supplied by the University of Alberta)

The University of Alberta is transferring an apartment-sized plot of land it was unaware it owned to the Royal Canadian Legion in Fort Assiniboine, Alta.

The 625-square-foot plot is outside the front door of the legion and is the site of two monuments, one commemorating the sacrifice of veterans and the second is an historical marker. 

As the memorials, made of concrete and rock, have eroded over the years, the legion decided it would apply for federal grants for needed repairs.

When legion president Dale Kluin went to pull the land title, he discovered the University of Alberta owned the land.

"We had no idea. So since they had title to it, we couldn't access the money," Kluin said.

He reached out to Craig Moore, director of real estate services at the U of A, who was equally surprised.

"We didn't even know it was there," Moore said.

The University owns 26,000 acres of land across the province and uses an additional 50,000 acres, he said. The legion plot doesn't appear on the list.

Willed to the university

Moore said he spent two days at the university's archive facility looking at board of governors minutes all the way back to the 1920s, eventually learning a doctor named Eugene State, who died in 1923, had willed property to the university.

In 1935, when the federal government wanted to place a monument in Fort Assiniboine, to signify the community as a trading post, the university offered up a small corner of the property.

Over the next number of decades, the rest of the land was sold off in parcels and after Fort Assiniboine was incorporated as a village in 1958, the university appointed the village council to dispose of the remaining 175 acres, Moore said.

But apparently the small plot with the monument had been forgotten.

A map dated from 1936 shows a survey of the land owned by the University of Alberta. (Supplied by the University of Alberta)

Now the university is making sure the land is transferred correctly. 

On Oct. 18, the university's board of governors approved the transfer of the small plot to the legion.

"It's in front of their building in Fort Assiniboine. They've looked after it for the last 84 years It just seemed like the right thing, to see if I could make it happen," Moore said.

"Owning 620 square feet in Fort Assiniboine really doesn't have much to do with the research and educational activities of the university." 

Moore expects the land to be sold to the legion for a dollar to make the transfer official.

Once the transfer is finalized, the legion can proceed with the repairs to the cenotaph, Kluin said.

The legion sees the experience as a history lesson from the University of Alberta, he said.

"We have a little history file so we can have a look at it and have a little snicker over a beer someday," Kluin said.




Travis McEwan

Video journalist

Travis McEwan is a video journalist who covers stories ranging from human interest and sports to municipal and provincial issues. Originally from Churchill, Man., Travis has spent the last decade working at CBC Edmonton reporting for web, radio and television. Email story ideas to travis.mcewan@cbc.ca.