Frank Oliver
Frank Oliver2.jpg
Minister of the Interior
In office
April 8, 1905 (1905-04-08) – October 6, 1911 (1911-10-06)
Preceded byClifford Sifton
Succeeded byRobert Rogers
Superintendent-General of Indian Affairs
In office
April 8, 1905 (1905-04-08) – October 6, 1911 (1911-10-06)
Preceded byWilfrid Laurier
Succeeded byRobert Rogers
Member of Parliament for Alberta (provisional district)
In office
June 23, 1896 (1896-06-23) – November 2, 1904 (1904-11-02)
Preceded byDonald Watson Davis
Succeeded byJohn Herron
Member of Parliament for Edmonton
In office
November 3, 1904 (1904-11-03) – December 16, 1917 (1917-12-16)
Preceded byCreated
Succeeded byAbolished
Member of the Legislative Assembly for the Northwest Territories for Edmonton
In office
May 29, 1883 (1883-05-29) – January 1, 1885 (1885-01-01)
In office
1888 (1888) – May 1896 (1896-05)
Personal details
Francis Robert Oliver Bowsfield

(1853-09-01)September 1, 1853
Peel County, Canada West
DiedMarch 31, 1933(1933-03-31) (aged 79)
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
RelativesParents Allan Bowsfield and Hannah (Anna) Lundy

Francis "Frank" Oliver PC (born Francis Robert Oliver Bowsfield;[1] September 1, 1853 – March 31, 1933) was a Canadian federal minister, politician, and journalist from the Northwest Territories and later Alberta. As Minister of the Interior, he was responsible for discriminatory Canadian government policies that targeted First Nations' land rights and black immigration.

Early life

Oliver was born Francis Bowsfield in Peel County, Canada West, just west of Toronto. He was the son of Allan Bowsfield and Hannah (Anna) Lundy. Some disagreement in the family made him drop the name Bowsfield and adopt the name of his grandmother, Nancy Oliver Lundy.

Frank Oliver in 1898
Frank Oliver in 1898

Oliver studied journalism in Toronto, Ontario. In 1880, he moved west and founded the Edmonton Bulletin with his wife, Harriet Dunlop (1863–1943).[2] When the first issue was printed on December 6, 1880, it became the first newspaper in what is now Alberta,[3] and he owned it until 1923. Oliver was a member of the Edmonton Settlers' Rights Movement, and used the Edmonton Bulletin as a platform to voice his opposition to the establishment and continued existence of Papaschase Indian Reserve Number 136.[4] He continued this practice for eight years, until the Papaschase were forced from their reserve by the federal government and the land was divided between railway companies, settlers, and Edmonton.[5]

Political career

Oliver became the second elected member to the 1st Council of the Northwest Territories by winning the May 29, 1883 election for the newly formed Edmonton district. Oliver lost his seat in the 1885 Northwest Territories election to future Speaker Herbert Charles Wilson. Oliver contested and won one of the two seats in the Edmonton district in 1888. He retained his seat by acclamation in the 1891 and 1894 elections. He resigned from the council in 1896 to run for a seat in the House of Commons of Canada for the Liberal Party of Canada. During Oliver's time as a territorial representative, he contributed to the creation of the Northwest Territories' first public school system.[3]

Running as a Liberal Party candidate, Oliver was elected in the 1896 Canadian federal election to represent the entire Alberta (Provisional District). He was re-elected to the Alberta provisional district again in 1900 and was subsequently elected to the newly-formed Edmonton district in 1904 Canadian federal election, a 1905 Ministerial by-election, 1908 Canadian federal election and 1911 Canadian federal election. He served in the House of Commons until 1917.[6]

Oliver was assigned by Wilfrid Laurier to draw up the electoral boundaries used in the 1905 Alberta general election. The boundaries were said to favour Edmonton, where the Alberta Liberal Party enjoyed the most support although overall, the Liberal Party got the majority of the votes cast and more votes than any other party in the election. Edmonton's political weight is said to have assured the city's designation as the provincial capital, if its central location and long dominance in north-central Alberta had not been enough.[3]

Federal Minister

From 1905 to 1911, he was appointed and served as the Minister of the Interior and Superintendent-General of Indian Affairs.

As minister responsible for national parks, he drastically reduced the size of Rocky Mountains Park from 11,400 km2 (4,400 sq mi) in 1902, to 4,663 km2 (1,800 sq mi);[7] Kootenay Lakes Forest Reserve (later Waterton Lakes National Park) from 140 km2 (54 sq mi) in 1895[8] to 35 km2 (14 sq mi),[9] and Jasper National Park from 12,950 km2 (5,000 sq mi) in 1907 to 2,590 km2 (1,000 sq mi),[9] under the Dominion Forest Reserves and Parks Act of 1911, which replaced the earlier legislation. Much of the land thus freed was declared to be forest reserves to capitalize on its timber and mineral resources.[10] Oliver's successor for Minister of the Interior, William James Roche, would expand the three Alberta National Parks closer to their original sizes, in 1914 Waterton Lakes National Park to 1,096 km2 (423 sq mi), later in 1917 expand Banff National Park to 7,125 km2 (2,751 sq mi) and Jasper National Park to 11,396 km2 (4,400 sq mi).[9]

Oliver, unhappy with centralized approach to the National Parks System, reorganized the system by creating the position of Commissioner of Dominion Parks with its headquarters in Banff, Alberta, and Howard Douglas, the superintendent of Rocky Mountains Park (Banff National Park) since 1897, was appointed the first Commissioner.[11]

By 1911, Oliver's immigration policy called for tighter controls on immigration. Oliver was staunchly British, and his policies favoured nationality over occupation. He asserted that his immigration policy was more "restrictive, exclusive and selective" than those of his predecessors.[12] Oliver wrote Order-in-Council P.C. 1911-1324, which was approved by the Laurier Cabinet on August 12, 1911 under the authority of the Immigration Act, 1906. It was intended to keep out black Americans escaping segregation in the American South by stating that "the Negro deemed unsuitable to the climate and requirements of Canada." The order was never called upon, as efforts by immigration officials had already reduced the number of blacks migrating to Canada. The order was cancelled on 5 October 1911, the day before Laurier had completed his term, by Cabinet, which claimed that the Minister of the Interior was not present at the time of approval.[13]

Oliver would also be successful in using his newspaper to lobby for having the Papaschase Cree removed from their Treaty 6 Reserve territory, south of Edmonton.[14]


On August 2, 2021 the Toronto Daily Tribune story, "Edmonton’s Oliver Square changes name after community consultation." It reported, "A member of Parliament and federal minister first elected to office in 1883, Oliver is known for drafting discriminatory legislation, including policies that pushed Indigenous people off their traditional lands."[15]


He died in 1933 in Ottawa, Ontario.[16]




  1. ^ Berton, Pierre (10 August 2011). The Promised Land: Settling the West 1896-1914. Doubleday Canada. ISBN 9780385673662 – via Google Books.
  2. ^ Sanderson, Kay (1999). 200 Remarkable Alberta Women. Calgary: Famous Five Foundation. p. 16. ISBN 0-9685832-0-2.
  3. ^ a b c Brennan 2001, p. 18.
  4. ^ Donald, Dwayne Trevor (1 May 2004). "Edmonton Pentimento Re-Reading History in the Case of the Papaschase Cree". Journal of the Canadian Association for Curriculum Studies. ISSN 1916-4467.
  5. ^ Jan Olson (4 November 2013). "Papaschase". Strathcona Community League. Retrieved 8 December 2021.((cite web)): CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  6. ^ "The Hon. Frank Oliver, P.C., M.P." Parlinfo. Parliament of Canada. Retrieved 25 March 2020.
  7. ^ Hildebrandt, Walter. Historical Analysis of Parks Canada and Banff National Park, 1968–1995 (Report). Banff-Bow Valley Study. OCLC 639616565.
  8. ^ "Chapter 1 The Early Years (Up to 1900)". A History of Canada's National Parks Volume II. Parks Canada. Retrieved 25 March 2020.
  9. ^ a b c "Chapter 2 Expansion in the West (1900 to 1972)". A History of Canada's National Parks Volume II. Parks Canada. Retrieved 25 March 2020.
  10. ^ "Biography – OLIVER, FRANK (Francis Robert Bowsfield, Bossfield, or Bousfield) – Volume XVI (1931-1940) – Dictionary of Canadian Biography".
  11. ^ "Chapter 4 National Parks Administration (1885 to 1973)". A History of Canada's National Parks Volume II. Parks Canada. Retrieved 25 March 2020.
  12. ^ "Black History Canada - Timeline 1900-Present".
  13. ^ Yarhi, Eli (30 September 2016). "Order-in-Council P.C. 1911-1324 — the Proposed Ban on Black Immigration to Canada". The Canadian Encyclopedia. The Canadian Encyclopedia. Retrieved 25 March 2020.
  14. ^ "History of Papaschase".
  15. ^ "Edmonton's Oliver Square Changes Name After Community Consultation -". Retrieved 2 October 2021.
  16. ^ "The man who built the Edmonton Bulletin". Archived from the original on 24 February 2012. Retrieved 25 February 2013.
Legislative Assembly of the Northwest Territories Preceded byNew District MLA Edmonton 1883–1885 Succeeded byHerbert Charles Wilson Preceded byHerbert Charles Wilson MLA Edmonton 1888–1896 Succeeded byMatthew McCauley Parliament of Canada Preceded byDonald Watson Davis Member of Parliament for Alberta (Provisional District) 1896–1904 Succeeded byJohn Herron Preceded byNew district Member of Parliament for Edmonton 1904–1917 Succeeded byDistrict abolished