In 1919, the Canadian National Railway Company (CNR), a federal Crown corporation, established a Department of Colonization and Agriculture to promote immigration and land settlement in Canada. The company believed that attracting settlers to farm in Canada would increase its rail traffic in certain regions and help dispose of some of its land grants, thus increasing its overall earnings. The company encouraged immigrants to settle adjacent to its rail lines and to use the railway to transport livestock, seed, supplies and other goods and services. In 1925, the Canadian Government, who relied on the railways to promote immigration, established the Railways Agreement. Under this agreement, the company was granted authority to select, transport and locate immigrants for permanent settlement in Canada. In Saskatchewan, the districts of Prince Albert, Kelvington, Henribourg and St. Walburg were direct targets of the CNR's settlement and branch line expansion.
The department was overseen by a director in Montreal, Quebec. Departmental personnel were located in the United Kingdom, Poland, the Ukraine and Germany, countries from which the company was particularly interested in attracting immigrants. The head office of the department's operations in western Canada was located in Winnipeg, Manitoba with district offices located in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan and Edmonton, Alberta. The department's western Canadian field agents researched settlement possibilities, met immigrants, assisted them in getting located and finding employment on farms and offered advice and training on Canadian farming methods.
The department continued its settlement work until ceasing operations in 1963.