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holding court on his horse. The Begbie Trophy continues to be regularly
mooted over back and forth among British Columbia’s three law schools.
Sketch had made various models of the Begbie statue for a much larger
statue proposed for the provincial government which never did
materialize.3 One version of the model ended up in the Begbie Building at
the University of Victoria’s faculty of law.4 In 1975 Law Society Treasurer
Peter Millward (later Judge Millward) “discovered” the statue and had the
Law Society purchase it for display in the new Law Society building.
The statue of Chief Justice Begbie was adopted by the benchers in 1986
as the symbol of the Law Society Award (known to many as the “Begbie
Award”). The Law Society Award was described by the Law Society in its
call for nominations last year as follows:
The Award is intended to honour the lifetime contribution of the truly
exceptional in our profession, the person who stands out from the crowd,
who has contributed more than anyone could ask and who inspires others
to a pursuit of excellence.
In selecting recipients for the Law Society Award, four criteria will be
Integrity—the recipient is of unimpeachable good character with a
reputation for high professional integrity and honesty.
Professional achievements—the recipient is known for significant
accomplishments in his or her professional career.
Service—the recipient has made exceptional volunteer contributions
of time and energy to the advancement of the legal profession, either
personally or through a recognized society or organization.
Reform—the recipient has made an outstanding contribution to the
betterment of the law or the improvement of the justice system.
The Law Society went on to describe the award as “a bronze statue of Sir
Matthew Baillie Begbie, cast by the late Pender Island sculptor Ralph
Sketch”, and advised:
Sir Matthew Baillie Begbie was born in 1819. He arrived in British Columbia
in 1858, commissioned by Queen Victoria as the first judge of the
Colony of British Columbia. Begbie was successively Chief Justice of the
mainland colony of the united Colony of British Columbia and, after
1871, of the new province of British Columbia.
Upon his death on June 11, 1894, Begbie was eulogized as:
… a great lawyer, a close astute reasoner, a strong impartial judge, a most
loyal comrade and gentleman of large and generous charity.
Presumably, 2016 was the last year the Law Society thought that the first
chief justice of the province was a suitable symbol for its most prestigious
award. It is less than a year later and now he is a symbol antithetical to truth
and reconciliation. In fact, 2016 is probably the last you will ever hear of the