THE ADVOCATE 353
VOL. 78 PART 3 MAY 2020
When Begbie asked him to explain his confusion, there was no answer. It
Begbie: The statute says a man may pre-empt land that is unoccupied,
unsurveyed and unreserved. You found Indians in occupation
of this land?
Witness: They had no right to be there.
Begbie: Rightly or wrongly they were in occupation?
Witness: They had no right.
Begbie: But if you find a drunken stranger in your bed to-night—he
has no right there, probably—would you say the bed was unoccupied?
Witness: No Answer.28
When Begbie then asked why he and Greer paid Charley and Jim for the
land “if they have no right—if you thought their occupation no occupation”,
there was, after some hemming and hawing, again no answer.
The second excerpt from Begbie’s notes of the evidence concerns
Charley, who took the stand after another witness testified that Charley had
told him a “Masacha man wanted to drive him off the place, pointing out
Greer”.29 Jim, who died before the commission hearings, did not testify. It
was quite clear that he had not attended any signing.
Charley told Begbie that he was “a Squamish Indian” and that he and Jim
and their families lived on the land in question. When Greer first showed
up, Charley was away at a potlatch in Cowichan. But when he returned
Greer came again and told them that “we had better look out, that he had
got the house and the land, and that I had better clear out”. When Charley
suggested they consult someone named Alexander, “who looks after the
Indians”, Greer had said Alexander had nothing to do with it.30 According to
Begbie’s notes, at this point Charley stood up from his chair and exclaimed:
“I was much afraid of Greer. He talked strongly. I was much afraid. To the
Commissioner: ‘Oh, Tyhee, I will not tell a lie, but I have never seen a man
like Greer’, resuming his seat”.31
Charley went on to say that three times Greer came with a paper to sign,
and each time he refused. It was only when it was proposed to go to see
McTiernan that Charley agreed. But he said he had never seen the
impugned document, and Begbie’s report explains how he believed the documents
were manipulated and the forgeries committed.
Begbie’s biographer, David Williams, states that Begbie recommended
that Greer be prosecuted for forgery and that he was tried before Mr. Justice
Walkem, who urged the jury to convict. Instead, they acquitted him.32 If so,
it is another example of a jury sympathizing with Greer in the face of quite
overwhelming evidence of guilt. So why was Begbie so implacable?