No. 47
21st June 1866
I have the honor to forward an Authenticated and two plain Copies of an Ordinance of the recent Session of the Legislature of this Colony, entitled; No. 14. An Ordinance amending the procedure of theCountyManuscript image County Courts of the Colony of British Columbia.
2. It is not for me to question the many Legal objections raised by the Attorney General in the lengthy Report which I enclose. Some of the statements however require explanation.
3. The necessity for an alteration in the Ordinance relating to the County Courts of this Colony has often been represented by the Judge of the Supreme Court andbyManuscript image by every Magistrate resident in the Country districts. The present Ordinance was framed and introduced in the Legislative Council by Mr Elliot, a Barrister of Lincoln's Inn and Magistrate of the Lillooet District. I am not aware that the Bill received less consideration at the Council Board than any other enactment of the Session. Nine Members of Council supported and five opposed the measure, this can hardly be termed in the words of the Attorney General a "verysmallManuscript image small majority."
4. I may state in reply to the remarks of the Attorney General in Paragraph 27 of his Report, that while there has been no external agitation on the subject, the feeling of the Public is very generally expressed and is referred to in every Grand Jury Report which I receive from Mr Justice Begbie during the present circuit of the Supreme Court. I enclose an extract from the PresentmentofManuscript image of the Grand Jury at Yale.
5. The Attorney General in Paragraph 34 more clearly, I consider, defines the objections which he and no doubt the majority of the Legal Profession naturally raise to this Ordinance as likely to interfere with their practise. It does not appear to me that the members of the Bar will be placed in a more anomalous position when pleading before the several Magistrates as County Courts Judges than when pleading,asManuscript image as is the constant practice, before the same Gentlemen in the Gold Commissioners' Courts.
6. Should Her Majesty's Government decide upon Union of Vancouver Island with British Columbia without further delay, the consequent amalgamation of the Courts of the two Colonies would to a great extent obviate the necessity at present existing for an alteration in the Law. On the other hand, if British Columbia is to continue separatetheManuscript image the appointment of a second Judge, entailing an additional expenditure the Colony can ill afford, or the increased powers proposed under this Ordinance to be vested in the district Magistrates will be found expedient.
The several Magistrates have held commissions as County Court Judges since the Proclamation of 1859. I have seldom heard a complaint of the decisions given and should not hesitate, with the experience alreadygained,Manuscript image gained, to increase their jurisdiction as now proposed.
7. The Legislature, at my suggestion, inserted a clause suspending the operation of the Ordinance until I have received your instructions. I may add that Mr Justice Begbie is strongly in favor of the proposed alterations in the Law.
I have the honor to be,
Your most obedient humble Servant
Arthur N. Birch
Minutes by CO staff
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Register the Ordinance.
Mr Elliot
Reserve for Sir F. Rogers, or refer, pending Sir Frederick's return, to Mr Seymour for any observations.
ABd Augt 14
I dare say the Orde is open to technical objections wh may embarrass its working but the principle (of furnishing speedy justice even though liable to occasional error) is to my mind a very good one and I always distrust an accumulation of minute objections against a thing useful at bottom. As far as I can judge there does not seem to be much in them. I wd answer conveying HM's allowance of this Ord to be published in the Colony in the usual &c manner, and would add that if the objections suggested by the Atty Genl are found productive of practical inconvenience, Mr C. does not doubt that the Legre will take the necessary steps for their removal.
FR 4/10
CBA 5/10
C 8 Oct
Documents enclosed with the main document (not transcribed)
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H.P.P. Crease, Attorney General, to Officer Administering the Government, 18 June 1866, reporting on the ordinance as per despatch.
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Extract from the presentment made by the grand jury at Yale, 4 May 1866, promoting the extension of the jurisdiction of county courts to at least $500.
Other documents included in the file
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Birch to Rogers, 26 June 1866, expressing opinion that much of Crease's objection was based on his ill feeling towards Begbie, and advising that the Fenians had caused great excitement in the colony.
Minutes by CO staff
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Mr Macdonald
Please to place this with the despatch on the Ordinances, when it reaches you—for Sir F. Rogers's eye.
TFE 13 August
Other documents included in the file
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Draft reply, Carnarvon to Seymour, No. 13, 11 October 1866.