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Canada Lands Surveyor Commission

In 1958, the Geneva Convention confirmed to each coastal nation exclusive rights "to explore and exploit" the seabed resources of its adjacent offshore areas (the precursor to the 1982 United nations Convention on the Law of the Sea). In November of 1967, the Supreme Court of Canada expressed its opinion with respect to the dispute between the Crown in right of Canada and the Crown in right of British Columbia regarding the ownership of natural resources of the seabed seaward from the "ordinary low water mark" off the mainland of the Pacific Coast. The Court in this seminal case ruled that Canada and not British Columbia had the right to explore and exploit these natural resources. In June of 1969, the Canadian Petroleum Association proposed to the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources the formation of a Task Force to review legislation governing surveys for exploration and production of offshore hydrocarbon resources. As a result, a Study Group was set up headed by Sam Gamble and this Study Group recommended the first Offshore Workshop which was held in Ottawa, January 12 to February 20, 1970. This workshop reviewed among other issues the concept of a special breed of Marine DLS to handle offshore surveys. The events briefly summarized in this paragraph really were the events that were instrumental in the change from the old DLS and DTS Commissions to the CLS Commission as they demonstrated the requirement for a Commissioned Surveyor with expertise in the offshore.

In December of 1970, in an effort to satisfy the offshore requirement, two courses (geodesy and Determination of Geographic Position Offshore) were added to the DLS syllabus and in January of 1971, Dr. A..E. Collin, Dominion Hydrographer, wrote to Dr. Gamble pointing out the need for major changes in the qualifying process to provide for the commissioning of qualified marine surveyors. At that time, there were a few hydrographers who held DLS Commissions.

Several committees were formed over the next few years to deal with the DLS qualifications and one of the most important of these was the Weir Study Group on the DLS Qualification chaired by Charlie Weir, a well known and highly respected surveyor. During the early 1970s the DLS Act was in the process of being amended and in June of 1977 the Amended Act was given final reading and Royal Assent. Under the amended Act:

In September of 1977, The CLS Act Advisory Committee was established to determine the scheduling and procedures to be used to implement the amendments to the CLS Act. Issues to be resolved include issues such as the major fields of surveying to be covered by the new commission, educational requirements, training and experience requirements the grandfathering process and the transition from an old to a new system. This committee worked closely with the Board of Examiners and with several universities and by December of 1978, the Board of Examiners sent the new examination regulations to the Department of Justice for review and approval.

In 1979, the Board of Examiners consisted of Tim Koepke, Charlie Weir, Les O’ Brien, Dominion Geodesist and Steve MacPhee, Dominion Hydrographer. The Board was chaired by Bill Blackie, the Surveyor General

In 1979 the Canadian Institute of Surveying (CIS) recognized that there were many persons other than practicing Dominion Lands Surveyors (DLS) who had expertise and responsible experience in the fields of hydrography, photogrammetry and geodesy. The Canada Lands Surveys Act and Examinations Regulation were broadened to include the commissioning of persons practicing in the various disciplines in the major fields of surveying including hydrography, photogrammetry and geodesy. The revised Canada Lands Surveys Act was brought about in order to cope with the rapidly increasing exploration for minerals in the marine environment of Canada and because of the rapid technological changes occurring both within and outside the survey industry. On September 13, 1979, the final step was taken when the new Canada lands Surveys Examinations Regulations came into force. At that time, there were four categories, Cadastral, Geodesy, Photogrammetry and Hydrography.

The new Canada Lands Surveyor (CLS) Commission that replaced the Dominion Lands Surveyor Commission, while covering the additional survey disciplines, allowed persons the right to operate only in their area or areas of competence as determined by their experience. The Canada Lands Surveys Act was proclaimed on March 31, 1979 and on September 13, 1979, the new Canada Lands Surveys Examinations Regulation came into force. It should be noted that a special grand-fathering provision to allow persons of the major fields of surveying to obtain their CLS Commission was two years after the effective date of the CLS Examinations Regulation coming into effect. As this expired on September 13, 1981 it thus allowed candidates to write CLS Examinations in either February 1981 or February 1982.

The CIS recognized that potential candidates might not have possessed the formal qualifications of professional training and experience, which were required for the new CLS Commission. The Executive Committee of the CIS was requested by a number of its members to investigate the possibility of the Institute to conduct a course in Survey Law specifically for CIS members practicing in the fields of hydrography, photogrammetry and geodesy. Courses were held in Ottawa in March 1980 and Burlington in October 1980 to accommodate the potential CLS candidates. All candidates had to pass both the Survey Law examination and the Acts, Regulations and Instructions for the Survey of Canada Lands examination with 75% in each.

On November 20, 1979, the Dominion Hydrographer, Mr. S.B. MacPhee issued a memo to CHS Regional Directors, Headquarters Directors and qualified staff indicating that the last date for receipt of applications for CHS staff to write the CLS Grandfather Examinations in February 1981 was September 17, 1980. The memo further outlined the CLS Training and Experience requirements to be considered for an applicant to write.

Under Training – "formal academic training requirements for a CLS are assumed to be common to all disciplines and will not be discussed except to state that Hydrography I and Hydrography II or equivalent courses are considered to be necessary".

As for experience – potential candidates

  1. Must have completed Hydrography I and Hydrography II including the field work portion of Hydrography I (equivalents will be accepted).
  2. Must have displayed recognized competence in hydrographic surveying and have served as Hydrographer-in-Charge of complex survey parties carrying out standard surveys for at last twelve months.
  3. Must be capable of taking charge of any survey party in an area where competence in legal delimitation is required.

In a follow up memo of June 9, 1980, Mr. MacPhee expanded the training and experience requirements for CHS applicants to include – "teaching at the survey technology level is considered to be professional experience for the purpose of qualifying under the grand-fathering clause."

It should be noted that six CHS staff with engineering degrees wrote the examinations prior to the grand-fathering provision. These included:



973 G.M. Yeaton
989 D.H. Gray
990 S.B. MacPhee
1006 G.W. Henderson
1010 P. Bellemare


As a result of the special Grandfathering Examinations, there were 14 successful CHS candidates in 1981 as follows:

CLS Commission # Name
D.J. Kean
J. O'Shea
B. M. Lusk
S.T. Grant
H.A. Boudreau
J.V. Crowley
G.R. Douglas
R. Marshall
J.M.R. Pilote
A.D. O’Connor
J.H. Wilson
M. Bolton
A.R. Mortimer
A.J. Kerr


and 18 successful candidates in 1982 as follows:

CLS Commission #
G.D. Macdonald
J. Watts
M.R. Crutchlow
P.D. Richards
R.K. Williams
D.A. Blaney
K.G. Hipkin
R.M. Eaton
R.W. Sandilands
G.C. Rockwell
E. Brown
J.R. MacDougall
W.S. Huggett
W.J. Rapatz
G.E. Richardson
J.E. Goodyear
J.D. Ferguson
J.A. Vosburgh