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Canadian State Trials

Canadian State Trials: Political Trials and Security Measures, 1840-1914

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    Canadian State Trials
    Book Description:

    The third volume in theCanadian State Trialsseries examines Canadian legal responses to real or perceived threats to the safety and security of the state from 1840 to 1914, a period of extensive challenges associated with fundamental political and socio-economic change.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-8392-1
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
    R. Roy McMurtry

    The Osgoode Society has published two previous volumes of itsCanadian State Trialsseries, and this third volume takes the topic forward in time, starting in the 1840s and going to the First World War. It examines a range of political trials as traditionally defined, including those arising from the Fenian invasions of the 1860s and the later North-West rebellions. The volume also expands the definition of state trials to include studies on the early development of secret policing and the evolution of the legal regulation of riot and public order. We are very grateful to the editors, who have...

  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Contributors
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  6. Abbreviations
    (pp. xvii-2)
  7. Introduction: From State Trials to National-Security Measures
    (pp. 3-32)

    This third volume in theCanadian State Trialsseries examines the legal regulation of security threats in Canada¹ from the mid-nineteenth to the early twentieth century. It follows chronologically from the two predecessor volumes: the first in the series,Law, Politics, and Security Measures, 1608–1837, surveyed trials for political offences and related proceedings in New France and British North America, while the second,Rebellion and Invasion in the Canadas, 1837–1839, focused on legal responses to the rebellions in Upper and Lower Canada. This volume is directed to a subsequent but equally tumultuous period of Canadian history, a time...

  8. Part One: Fenians

    • 1 ‘Stars and Shamrocks Will Be Sown’: The Fenian State Trials, 1866–7
      (pp. 35-84)

      In early June 1866 the Fenians launched two raids across the American border into the United Province of Canada to initiate their long-threatened invasion of British North America. The attack proved unsuccessful and its leaders slipped back to the United States. Canadian forces captured a substantial number of Fenian fighters, and in late 1866 and early 1867 these Fenian prisoners faced trial in Toronto and in Sweetsburg, Lower Canada. Twenty-five defendants were found guilty of capital charges, but not a single Fenian was put to death and by 1872 every Fenian prisoner in Kingston Penitentiary had been set free.


    • 2 The D’Arcy McGee Affair and the Suspension of Habeas Corpus
      (pp. 85-120)

      In November 1867 John A. Macdonald, in his dual role as prime minister and minister of justice, announced during the first session of the Dominion Parliament that his government intended to renew the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act. Habeas corpus had been suspended eighteen months earlier, in the wake of the Fenian invasion of the Niagara peninsula and the Battle of Ridgeway in June 1866. But that legislation was to expire at the end of 1867 and had applied only to the pre-confederation Province of Canada. Given the continuing Fenian threat, Macdonald argued, the suspension of habeas corpus should...

  9. Part Two: Managing Collective Disorder

    • 3 The Tenant League and the Law, 1864–7
      (pp. 123-160)

      The British government distributed almost all the land on the future Prince Edward Island to individuals and small groups in 1767. The resulting sixty-seven townships of approximately 20,000 acres became known locally as ‘lots’ and were commonly identified by numbers, Lot 1 to Lot 67. That fateful decision, which left only one township, Lot 66, by far the smallest, as public land, marked the beginning of a century of leasehold tenure as the predominant means of land occupation on the Island. The ‘land question’ became a perennial source of political and social tension, and the law was an important means...

    • 4 The Trials and Tribulations of Riot Prosecutions: Collective Violence, State Authority, and Criminal Justice in Quebec, 1841–92
      (pp. 161-203)

      Violence was endemic in post-rebellions Quebec.¹ British military force and colonial criminal justice had extinguished organized resistance in 1837–8, as examined in Volume II ofCanadian State Trials, but largescale collective violence continued in the decades that followed. Election violence persisted through to the 1870s; Protestant-Catholic tensions regularly culminated in violence; there were episodes of violent popular resistance to state measures such as school taxes or vaccination campaigns; sporadic labour violence accompanied industrialization; and popular forms of rough justice, such as the charivari, continued. These sorts of collective disturbances were evidently the most striking form of violence, but other...

    • 5 Maintaining Order on the Pacific Railway: The Peace Preservation Act, 1869–85
      (pp. 204-256)

      The newly elected federal government in 1878 faced responsibility for building a national railway across the country to the Pacific Ocean, the largest such project yet undertaken in Canada. The ruling Conservatives under Sir John A. Macdonald, concerned by the possibility of disorder among railway labourers, applied a system of prohibition of alcohol combined with the provision of criminal justice along the line of the railway (see Map 1). The government’s approach relied on two statutes: the Peace Preservation Act, 1869¹ to apply prohibition (hereafter the Peace Act); and the Dominion Police Act, 1868² to deal with crime (hereafter the...

    • 6 Street Railway Strikes, Collective Violence, and the Canadian State, 1886–1914
      (pp. 257-294)

      Imagine the following scenario, which repeated itself with remarkable frequency in North American cities in the decades that bookmarked the turn of the twentieth century.¹ Late one night a group of street railway drivers and conductors met to discuss their work grievances.² Wages were low, hours were long, working conditions were poor, and discipline was rigid and often arbitrary. They decided to form a local branch of the Amalgamated Association of Street Railway Employees (AASRE) and began organizing their fellow workers.³ Within a matter of days, the employer caught wind of their activities and fired some of the instigators, allegedly...

  10. Part Three: The North-West Rebellions

    • 7 Treasonous Murder: The Trial of Ambroise Lépine, 1874
      (pp. 297-352)

      The 1874 trial of Ambroise Lépine for the murder of Thomas Scott in the Red River resistance of 1869–70 was long and complex and involved a number of major questions. What law was in force in the Red River colony in March 1870? What was the legal status of the ‘provisional government’ (PG) of Red River? What were the actual facts in the arrest, trial, and execution of Scott under the alleged auspices of Lépine? What British, imperial, Dominion, and provincial statutes were relevant for Lépine’s trial in Winnipeg in 1874? Which witnesses were allowed to testify, and what...

    • 8 Summary and Incompetent Justice: Legal Responses to the 1885 Crisis
      (pp. 353-410)

      The justice system in all the 1885 rebellion cases demonstrated elements of harshness and carelessness unusual for the day. Prosecutors used their discretion to select the most repressive available laws, and they fully exploited existing procedural expedients. This is surprising given that Prime Minister John A. Macdonald, Justice Minister Alexander Campbell, and Deputy Minister of Justice George Burbidge were all knowledgeable about and sincerely interested in the integrity of the criminal justice system, and Macdonald himself had experience with high-profile political trials. While the need to assert firm Canadian control over the North-West may explain the harsh justice, it does...

    • 9 Another Look at the Riel Trial for Treason
      (pp. 411-450)
      J.M. BUMSTED

      The high treason trial in 1885 of Louis Riel has been the subject of considerable debate and controversy since the day it began. The substance of the debate has not much changed since 1885. Government critics then and since have insisted that Riel did not receive a fair trial. Malcolm Cameron, Liberal MP for Huron, maintained in a lengthy speech in the House of Commons in 1886 that ‘Louis Riel was executed contrary to law, contrary to the plainest principles of British law and British justice, and in obedience to a power that is not responsible to Parliament.’¹ Government defenders...

    • 10 The White Man Governs: The 1885 Indian Trials
      (pp. 451-480)

      When Louis Riel dropped to his death – some might argue, martyrdom – on 16 November 1885, many Canadians considered his execution the final act in the North-West rebellion. After all, the Métis leader had precipitated the armed showdown with the Canadian government by declaring a provisional government at Batoche in the late spring of 1885, and it symbolically ended with his hanging in Regina almost exactly eight months later. Popular fascination with Riel and his fate, however, has tended to deflect attention away from how Ottawa dealt with prairie Indians in the aftermath of the rebellion. Indian Affairs officials had been...

  11. Part Four: Securing the Dominion

    • 11 ‘High-handed, Impolite, and Empire-breaking Actions’: Radicalism, Anti-Imperialism, and Political Policing in Canada, 1860–1914
      (pp. 483-515)

      Surveillance and intelligence-gathering operations that targeted political dissidents were a part of the Canadian state from its inception. This is not surprising. Not only had such practices – furtive, repressive, and legal in equal measure – long served military and diplomatic objectives in British North America, but the development of a Canadian system of political policing was tied to Canada’s status as an outpost of the British empire. Indeed, early political police structures in Canada were modelled after those created in other colonial contexts and, by the 1860s, agents of the Canadian state had become integrated within an imperial network of intelligence...

    • 12 Codification, Public Order, and the Security Provisions of the Canadian Criminal Code, 1892
      (pp. 516-564)

      The allocation of criminal law jurisdiction to the Dominion of Canada and eventual codification reflect the perceived central place of criminal law in securing the new federation. The comprehensive political and public order provisions in the 1892 Code¹ not only were rationalized forms of received English, British North American, and Dominion offences but also articulated the new powers of the central government in support of its nation-securing and nation-building policies. They provided the means, beyond national defence, to respond to the wide array of real and apprehended threats to the union and its development.

      Colonial legacies and the anticipated challenges...

  12. Appendices:: Archival Research and Supporting Documents

    • Appendix A The Sir John A. Macdonald Fonds: Research Strategies and Methodological Issues for Archival Research
      (pp. 567-575)
    • Appendix B Archival Sources in Canada for Riel’s Rebellion
      (pp. 576-589)
    • Appendix C Supporting Documents
      (pp. 590-622)
  13. Index
    (pp. 623-648)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 649-652)