Fonds - Halifax Relief Commission

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Halifax Relief Commission

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58.9 m of textual records
ca. 400 architectural drawings and maps
ca. 140 photographs.

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Administrative history

The Halifax Relief Commission was appointed by federal Order-in-Council on 22 January 1918, in part to oversee the expenditure of nearly $21,000,000 donated by Canadian, British and other governments and by the general public, following the Halifax Harbour explosion of 6 December 1917. The commission included T. Sherman Rogers, KC, Halifax, as chairman; W.B. Wallace, judge of the County Court, Halifax; and F.L. Fowke, merchant of Oshawa, Ont. Ralph P. Bell was the secretary. A subsequent act passed by the Nova Scotia Legislature on 26 April 1918 incorporated the Halifax Relief Commission and broadened its duties and powers. The commission was given the power to spend relief monies in any manner it deemed appropriate, stating that it "may repair, rebuild or restore any building or property damaged, destroyed or lost in or by reason of the said disaster, or compensate the owner thereof, or any person having an interest therein...". Also at its discretion, the commission provided compensation for the financial and physical relief of victims suffering personal injury or who lost family members as a result of the disaster. The act also granted the commission the power to prepare a town planning scheme and by-laws and to expropriate lands in the devastated area. Numerous workmen and professionals were hired by the commission to assist in the reconstruction of Halifax-Dartmouth, notably town planner Thomas Adams and Ross and Macdonald, architects of Montreal and Halifax. The Halifax Relief Commission was dissolved in 1976 and responsibility for administering pensions was transferred to the federal Canadian Pension Commission.

Custodial history

Two scrapbooks were donated by the commission in 1939 followed by several volumes of minutes, scrapbooks, and other material in 1975 and 1981 (MG 20). In 1976, 21 architectural plans were received through the commission's officer, Allan Butler. The remainder of the records were discovered in a basement safe at the offices of the Human Resources Development Association, 5555 Young Street, Halifax (former headquarters of the Halifax Relief Commission)in October 1982 and subsequently transferred to the Archives.

Scope and content

Fonds consists of records documenting the commission's role in overseeing the expenditure of relief funds and the reconstruction of Halifax and Dartmouth following the 1917 explosion. Records also document the work of the Halifax Relief Committee, which was superceded by the commission in 1918.

Consists of six series:
• Appraisal Board minutes and other material
• Commissioners' correspondence, minutes and financial records
• Pension claims case files and other material
• Reconstruction committee case files and other material
• Architectural plans for the reconstruction of Halifax and related cartographic materials,
• Halifax Relief Committee minutes, and relief fund record books

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Series description available. Each series has file lists.

Associated materials

Other textual records and photographs relating to the Halifax Explosion and relief activities are found in the Canadian Red Cross Society, Nova Scotia Division fonds; Archibald MacMechan fonds; W.G. MacLaughlan fonds; Gauvin and Gentzel fonds; Helen Creighton fonds; and Halifax Explosion Collection (MG 27).

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