THE ADVOCATE 357
VOL. 78 PART 3 MAY 2020
he and the citizens of New Westminster were sorry
for, and asked forgiveness for his human proneness
to err” (David Williams, The Man for a New Country:
Sir Matthew Baillie Begbie (Sidney: Gray’s Publishing,
1977) at 195 Williams, The Man for a New
Country, citing the Mainland Guardian (20 May
3. Laura Ishiguro, “The Untold Story of Samuel Greer’s
‘Battle for Kitsilano’” (presentation delivered to the
Vancouver Historical Society, 28 March 2019),
This public presentation provides important information
about Greer’s treatment of his family. It is, understandably,
not so useful on the complex legalities of
4. Nicholas K Blomley, “Act, Deeds, and the Violences
of Property,” Historical Geography (January 2000)
87 at 96.
5. Russwurm, “The Fight for Greer’s Beach”, supra note 1.
6. The Victoria Daily Colonist (18 November 1891) at
4, online: <archive.org/stream/dailycolonist18911
8. Begbie’s bench book, vol 16 at 293 (14 November
1891), BC Archives, GR 1727, vol 739.
9. Samuel Greer (Plaintiff in Error) v Her Majesty the
Queen (1892), 2 BCR 112, a decision of the Full
Court, reviewing the conviction by way of writ of
error. (There was no separate Court of Appeal until
1909.) One ground was whether Begbie’s attending
in the jury room invalidated the verdict, but errors
had to be on the record, and at the time “record”
was defined very narrowly. Not only did these facts
not form part of the record, but an objection could
have been made at trial and was not. It was also not
clear in those days that Begbie’s course of action,
while “inexpedient”, was a ground of error. As
Crease J put it: “However inadvisable it may be for a
Judge to communicate with a jury after they have
retired, and in my opinion it is a custom more honoured
in the breach than in the observance, such has
been the common practice of the British Judges down
to the present time for a long series of years, and is
therefore not unlawful” (120).
10. Begbie’s bench book, supra note 8. See also
Williams, The Man for a New Country, supra note 2
11. Quoted in Roy St George Stubbs, “Sir Matthew Baillie
Begbie” (1968–69) 3:25 Manitoba Historical
Society Transactions, online: <www.mhs.mb.ca/
was a provincial court judge in Manitoba. This is a
very even-handed assessment of Begbie, warts and
all, both as a judge and as a human being.
12. This is true with one exception: Greer seems to have
had the support in one of the legislative committees,
which recommended a Crown grant be issued to him
(Blomley, supra note 7 at 93). In his pamphlet on his
legal woes, Greer reproduces some of this material:
see The Celebrated Greer Case: The Subject and the
Crown (nd), online: <archive.org/details/cihm_
15069/page/n7>. Begbie also found against Greer
in an action of ejectment in which he described
Greer as an “ostentatious trespasser”: <babel.hathi
view=1up&seq=5&size=125>. The case is Smith
and Angus v Greer, which does not seem to have
been reported. An application for review to the Full
Court was commenced that, presumably, was either
lost or discontinued.
13. Begbie’s bench book, supra note 8. The quotations
are from drafts of letters to the minister that are
included in Begbie’s bench book for the trial, along
with The Daily News report of the judgments in Greer
v The Queen. In the second one, Begbie told the minister
that anonymous letters had been sent both to
him and to the Attorney General about the case.
14. When a witness in Carl Sandberg’s book-length
poem The People, Yes (New York: Harcourt, Brace &
Company, 1936), was asked if he would swear to tell
the whole truth he replied: “No, I don’t. I can tell you
what I saw and what I heard and I’ll swear to that by
the everliving God but the more I study about it the
more sure I am that nobody but the everliving God
knows the whole truth and if you summoned Christ as
a witness in this case what He would tell you would
burn your insides with the pity and the mystery of it.”
15. Trevor Williams communication to the author, 15
16. See e.g. AG (BC) v AG (Canada) (1889), 14 App
Cas 295 (JCPC) (known as the Precious Metals case).
17. For details see Frank Leonard, “‘So Much Bumph’:
CPR Terminus Travails in Vancouver, 1884–89”, BC
Studies, no 166 (Summer 2010) 7. More recently,
see Canada (Attorney General) v Canadian Pacific
Ltd, 2002 BCCA 478 and Douglas C Harris, “Property
and Sovereignty: An Indian Reserve and a
Canadian City” (2017) 50:2 UBC L Rev 321.
18. CPR v Major (1886), 13 SCR 233. The machinations
around this issue are discussed in Williams, The Man
for a New Country, supra note 2 and especially
Leonard, supra note 17.
19. Hayden v Smith and Angus (1887), 1 BCR 312 (II)
312 at 315, 320. The chief commissioner was
William Smithe, who was also the premier.
20. Report of Commission of Enquiry concerning the
genuineness of an alleged transfer, dated the 23rd
day of June, 1884, from certain Indians to one
J.M.M. Spinks (published in the British Columbia
Sessional Papers, 4th Parl, 4th Sess, 1886, 217),
pdf> Report. The commission’s report consists of
Begbie’s report, his detailed notes of the evidence
and an appendix containing various exhibits, including
the impugned transfer document.
21. See Trevor Williams, “Sam Greer and ‘the Old
Reserve’ at Chilliwack Landing” (2018) 54:2 British
Columbia History 23 Williams, “Sam Greer”.
22. Unless otherwise indicated, all passages in quotation
marks are from Begbie’s report and are his words.