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BC Sessional Papers

RETURN To an Order of the House for copies of any correspondence with the Dominion Governemnt referring… British Columbia. Legislative Assembly 1902

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 2 Ed. 7 Appointment of County Court Judge, Atlin. 751
To an Order of the House for copies of any correspondence with the Dominion
Government referring to the appointment of a County Court Judge for the Atlin
Attorney-General's Department, Attorney-General.
25th March, 1902.
Ottawa, 28th January, 1902.
Sir,—Referring to previous correspondence with regard to the appointment of a resident
County Court Judge for the Atlin District, I enclose herewith copy of a letter which the
Minister has received from the Secretary of the Atlin District Board of Trade. Will you be
good enough to consider what he states in connection with the representations of the British
Columbia Board of Trade recently referred to you, and report for the information of the
Minister your views with respect to the necessity or propriety of acceding to the request of
these Boards of Trade. I understand that by reason of an amendment to your County Court
Act more than one County Court Judge may be appointed for any County Court within the
Province, so that it may be possible to appoint a Judge for the Atlin District without further
Provincial legislation, although, of course, it will be necessary to make provision for the salary
here before any appointment could be made.
I have, etc.,
(Signed)        E. L. Newcombe,
Deputy Minister of Justice.
The Honourable the Attorney-General of British Columbia,
Victoria. B. C.
The Atlin District Board of Trade,
Atlin, 8th January, 1902.
To the Honourable the Minister of Justice,  Ottawa.
Dear Sir,—I have been instructed by the Council of the Board of Trade to again call
your serious attention to the fact that no steps have been taken towards appointing either a
resident County Court Judge or Assistant County Court Judge District, although for two years
the merchants and miners of this important district have been continuously petitioning both the
Dominion and Provincial Governments to supply this urgent need. We have always been
told that the matter would receive " serious consideration." The time has arrived when it
requires more than " serious consideration." We would again point out the justness of our
The resources of the district were never more promising than to-day, but the conditions
under which they lie are a disgrace. In the past the camp has had very many difficulties to
contend with, which have seriously retarded its progress, but these chiefly originated from the
extremely lax manner in which the Mining Acts have been enforced and the iniquitous practice
of allowing claims to be recorded several times over and record fees for same received by the
Recorder when fully aware that these claims had been " jumped" and that the later records
of the same were illegal.
Much litigation, in consequence, ensued, which drove capital from the camp already there
and effectually deterred other, which would have come in, from seeking investment in out
mines, both placer, hydraulic and quartz. The question probably will be asked, How much
legal work is transacted in the district? But we would point out that the life and progress of
the district depends on the immediate settlement of all disputes and mining questions and
difficulties which are naturally arising daily throughout the year. We readily admit that a
great many cases could well be disposed of by a visiting Judge, still, at the same time, we would
ask why should they not be dealt with summarily, to the relief of parties concerned and benefit
of the district, instead of lying in abeyance for several months awaiting the Judge's arrival? 752 Appointment of County Court Judge, Atlin. 1902
Further, we would bring to your notice, that although the Gold Commissioner is vested
with powers of settling mining disputes, of allowing or refusing all water rights and other
privileges under Placer, Mineral and other Acts, yet an appeal from his decision is provided for
to the County Court in the same Acts. So it is of the utmost importance for the welfare and
progress of the district that all questions arising under these Acts should be settled at once and
on the Spot. Why should work and capital be tied up for the whole year, and in some cases
much longer, awaiting the settlement of an appeal or the advent of a Judge to hear one ? Why
should an appeal from a Magistrate's decision be subject to the same delay? And where is the
justice of leaving the merchants, who have invested their capital in the trade of the district, to
look on helplessly while their debtors leave the country openly and unabashed, and are in a few
hours in United States territory, beyond ordinary reach, because no Judge is at hand to
prevent them and to enforce our laws. The laws in most instances are good and no one could
wish for better, but what we require and urge is the effectual and summary enforcement of
those laws.
These are some of the chief difficulties which are retarding the progress of the camp and
throttling deliberately what would become a source of vast revenue to the country.
The mineral is here and only requires capital to develop it, but so long as important
properties are liable to be tied up awaiting a Judge's decision, capital will look elsewhere for
investment and Atlin will become a dead number and bye-word.
In again approaching you, we ask that prompt action be taken in this essential matter
and that it be not merely placed on the shelf of "serious consideration."
I have, etc.,
(Signed)        Fred. L. Stephenson,
Victoria, B. C, 22nd February, 1902.
E. L. Newcombe, Esq., K. C,
Deputy Minister of Justice, Ottawa, Ont.
Sir,—I have the honour to acknowledge receipt of your communication of the 28th ultimo
respecting the necessity for the appointment of a resident County Court Judge for the District
of Atlin. I must apologise for the seeming neglect of a previous communication from you on
this subject. On the receipt of your letter I asked the late Chief Justice when reporting to
the Government of British Columbia upon bis work as Commissioner at Atlin, to deal with the
advisability of appointing a County Court Judge. Owing to illness for some time before his
death the Chief Justice was unable to make this report. From inquiries which I have recently
made I am convinced that the representations made to the Honourable the Minister of Justice
in the memorial bearing date the 8th of January, 1902, submitted to him by the Atlin District
Board of Trade, are well founded. At the present time a Judge of the Supreme Court goes to
Atlin once a year for a short time. It is impossible for one of the Supreme Court Judges to
be in that part of the Province for any extended period owing to term engagements, and
consequently the administration of Justice, both civil and criminal, is in a highly unsatisfactory state. I will give you an example : If a man be committed for trial upon a charge
which he may be quite willing to have dealt with under the Speedy Trials Act by a County
Court Judge, he is unable to avail himself of that mode of disposing of his case. The prisoner
cannot be taken to Vancouver for election as it is unsafe to attempt to convey him through
the American territory which shuts off the Atlin country from the sea. Important litigation
respecting mining rights could be brought before a County Court Judge that now has to be
delayed pending the arrival of a Supreme Court Judge. I consider the duties that would fall
to be discharged by a County Court Judge at Atlin so important that I take the liberty of
suggesting that only an able and experienced lawyer should receive the appointment. The
Government of this Province will supplement the regular salary paid by the Dominion to the
extent of five hundred dollars a year.
I have, etc.,
(Signed)        D. M. Eberts,
Printed by Richard Wolfenden, Printer to the King's Most Excellent Majesty.


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