The British Bonus was a commission paid by the Canadian government's Immigration Branch to steamship booking agents in the United Kingdom and in European countries for each suitable immigrant who purchased a ticket to sail to Canada. The immigrants themselves did not receive the bonus, although those who settled on western homesteads did receive aseparate monetary bonus upon proof of settlement.
As such, the "British Bonus" was a subtle marketing tool used by the Canadian government; it served to encourage steamship booking agents to recruit desirable settlers (farmer, domestics, etc.). The laws of the time in many European countries forbade open encouragement of immigration by any foreign country.
The British Bonus came into effect through the passage of an Order-in-Council on September 27, 1890. It provided the following provisions.To pay a limited amount, not exceeding in any case $50.00, to the class of "returned men" (not exceeding fifty) to Europe toward recouping their expenses on sufficient proof furnished of success in bringing immigrants to Canada.To pay a bonus to Steamship Agents in the United Kingdom, of $5.00 for each adult settler on land, of 18 years and over, on certificate of booking and shipping such settler to Manitoba, the Northwest Territories of British Columbia, and, on certificate of a Dominion Lands Agent, to be furnished as proof of such settler.To pay a bonus of $10.00 to each homesteader, the head of a family, and $5.00 for each member of such family at the adult age of 12 years and over, with an additional $5.00 to any such member of a family who might within six months after arrival in Canada become a homesteader on settlement on land in Manitoba, the Northwest Territories of British Columiba, proof being furnished of such settlement by the certificate of a Dominion Lands Agent.While the arrangement above was in place, many suggestions were received by the Department recommending that the regulations be altered so that a bonus would be payable when the immigrant arrived in Canada instead of when he took up land. It was finally agreed to pay of bonus of $1.75 on adults and half that amount on children from the British Isles arriving in Winnipeg, Manitoba. This system remained in effect until April 1, 1906 with the exception that in later years it applied to immigrants to eastern as well as Western Canada. In the year 1904-05, 146,266 immigrants arrived at Canada of which the British bonus was paid on 28,835.
The stamp "British Bonus Allowed" was stamped against the name of applicable passengers on manifests. Other, similar, notations included "C.G.E.A. which was the abbreviation for the Canadian Government Employment Agent (these agents received a commission from the government for placing newly-arrived immigrants with employers who were seeking labourers or domestics; and "Continental Bonus" which was established in 1882 and were similar to the British Bonus but applied to emigrants from the European mainland.
With thanks to Georgina Sales who searched this out for us.