By today's Canadian standards of centralized government and municipal amalgamation, the notion of an Icelandic republic in the heart of Manitoba seems particularly exotic. But from 1875 to 1887, the Icelandic immigrants who settled Lake Winnipeg's western shore were part of an independent province, sanctioned by the Canadian government, governed by an elected council and regulated by a provincial constitution. The democratic New Iceland colony, known as "Vatnsthing," was divided into 4 districts according to the ancient quarter-section model of 10th century Iceland.
Each district elected its own council of 5 members by popular vote, with a reeve and deputy reeve chosen by the elected council. A regional council of 6 members administered the general affairs of the colony as a whole, overseen by a President and Vice-President elected annually by all eligible voters. The colony council was responsible for all relations with the Canadian government.
This governing system remained in effect until 1881, when the boundaries of Manitoba were extended and New Iceland became part of the Province of Manitoba. In 1887, the transformation from independent state to a municipal form of government was officially completed.
Author: Fredrick Buetefuer