The Canadian Department of Justice and the Completion of Confederation, 1867-78

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Among other things, it was charged with establishing national institutions such as the Supreme Court and the North West Mounted Police and with centralizing the penitentiary system. In the process, the department took on a position of primary importance in post-Confederation politics. This was particularly so up to , when Confederation was "completed. Drawing on legal records and other archival documents, he details the complex interactions between law and politics, exploring how expectations both inside and outside the legal system created an environment in which the department acted as an advisor to the government.

He concludes by considering the post legacy of the department's approach to governance, wherein any problem, legal or otherwise, was made amenable to politicized solutions. Unfortunately for the department and the federal government, this left them ill-prepared for the constitutional battles to come. One crucial task was to establish responsibilities within the federal government, rather than just duplicate offices which had existed prior to union. Others were the establishment of national or quasi- national institutions such as the Supreme Court and the North-West Mounted Police , the redrafting of the Governor-General's instructions which was done between and , and centralization of the penitentiary system completed by The Department benefited from a deeply rooted expectation that law was both apolitical and necessary.

This ideology functioned in a variety of ways: it gave the Department considerable latitude for setting policy and solving problems, but rationalized the appearance of politicized legal decisions. It also legitimized Department officials' claim that it was especially suited to review all legislation, advise on the royal prerogative of mercy, administer national penitentiaries, and appoint judges to the bench. Ultimately, the fictional notion of law as apolitical and necessary placed the Department of Justice squarely in the midst of the completion of Confederation. The Canadian Department of Justice and the Completion of Confederation will be of particular interest to students and scholars of Canadian legal and political history.

They also probe the degree to which locale and location influenced legal culture history. Add to list Share On a book page, this tab will allow you to add a book to one of your lists. Please login or register to use this feature. Enlarge Cover 0 of 5 1 2 3 4 5 0 ratings. A scholarly and more thorough study of the Elizabeth Workman case has been undertaken by F.

In this context, the following discussion seeks to advance our understanding of the hanging of Elizabeth Workman by reporting on a comprehensive study of a series of interrelated questions: why was Elizabeth Workman convicted?

Why was she recommended for mercy? Why was this recommendation not accepted? The answers to these questions suggest that the explanation for the execution of Elizabeth Workman is not simple at all.

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Rather, her hanging was the result of a specific convergence of factors, all of which worked together to seal her fate. As will be discussed, Elizabeth Workman was initially reported by newspapers to be guilty, and her crime was the source of much gossip in the area. This support appears to have come from not only the common people, but also from the more notable members of Sarnia society, such as the mayor, the sheriff, and the future Prime Minister, Alexander Mackenzie.

These documents record the testimonies given at both of these proceedings and provide evidence of the operation of the judicial apparatus of the time. The file also includes the closing statement of the presiding judge, as well as a series of petitions for clemency addressed to the Governor General or the Department of Justice. This study is also based on a systemic examination of both local and provincial newspaper coverage. The articles in the Sarnia Observer and Lambton Advertiser are especially valuable for getting a sense of the local public discussion of the case.

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These articles also include other information about Elizabeth Workman and her family that are not obtainable from any other resource. Additional research was undertaken in sources such as the Canadian census and the papers of Sir John A. The census offers insight into the date of birth, religion and occupation of many of the individuals involved in the case. Macdonald provide evidence about his view of the Elizabeth Workman case as well as his perspective on the different racialized identities of the day, a highly pertinent factor as will be discussed.

To examine the Workman trial and subsequent events, a thorough understanding of the individuals involved is essential. In addition to examining their occupation, age, religion, place of residence, and other characteristics as revealed by sources such as the manuscript census, research has focused on how they were described at the trial, in the local newspapers, and in the petitions pleading for mercy, in an attempt to explain their actions. There are a number of important individuals in the Workman case, but none as important as Elizabeth herself. A native of Scotland, Elizabeth Workman came to Canada with her newly-wed husband, James, [End Page ] around , along with his daughter, Mary, from a previous marriage.

According to newspaper accounts, Elizabeth arrived with dreams of a new beginning, that in the following years were only very partially fulfilled. Elizabeth gave birth to a son Hugh around , but the Workman family was apparently not a happy one. Moreover, she was described as a good mother and an industrious woman, who worked outside the home when the family fell upon hard times. James Workman was much older than Elizabeth, and though their exact difference in age is uncertain, his age played a key role in the case. In Canada, James never earned enough for the family to escape poverty.

Moreover, he became more abusive to his family, constantly berating his wife, and even causing his daughter to move out to escape his behavior. In fact, when she left home to become a boarder in Sarnia, she ceased to be known as Mary Workman, instead adopting the family name of her new guardian, Mrs. Occupying the floor above the Workman family was a couple, David and Sarah Patterson, who apparently shared a good marriage.

Elizabeth Workman was friendly with Sarah Patterson and had used the Patterson residence as a refuge from her husband a number of times. Soon after he arrived in Sarnia, he hired Elizabeth Workman to do his laundry and cleaning around his shop. Butler quickly struck up a friendship with the Workman family and he began visiting their residence, often bringing a bottle of whiskey. Though protected to some extent under the law in Canada, Blacks were far from social equals. In fact, S. The prejudice here is a great deal worse than in the States. Certain features of the Workman family were typical of a working-class family of the era.

This control extended beyond the financial arena, as James Workman controlled or attempted to control his wife and children as well. These laws gave wives no economic power at all, but were often bent for members of the upper classes. This, however, would not be so for Elizabeth Workman.

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The economic changes of this period left their mark on the Workman family. Production was moving out of the home and into factories in the growing cities and land was becoming much less available for family [End Page ] farming in southern Ontario. The fact that they only had one child is also indicative of the changing times, as children were increasingly seen as more of an economic burden than an extra worker.

This may have been because the courts were embarrassed by the idea of dealing with women in circumstances so different from the accepted norms, but it is not to say that women always received more lenient treatment than men.

Elizabeth Workman: Canadian Journal of Law and Society 20.1 (2005) 171-192

For example, in the twelve months beginning in December , there were only three convictions by the Justices of the Peace in Sarnia for wife beating, contrasted with eighty liquor-related offences. There is no record of [End Page ] this sort of conviction over the same time period in Sarnia, and between and , there was not a single male complainant of spousal abuse in Hamilton. An understanding of the individuals and the historical setting of the Elizabeth Workman case provides the context within which the trial itself can be analyzed.

Though there are a few minor discrepancies between some of the testimonies, the trial transcript describes a consistent narrative of events that begins on the morning of Thursday, October 24, Obviously intoxicated, James demanded that Elizabeth return home with him. Though he gave no reason for this demand, it can certainly be inferred that he was either jealous or suspicious of the relationship between his wife and Samuel Butler.

When Elizabeth did not respond, James grabbed at her, but Butler quickly intervened. How exactly Butler intervened is not agreed upon. What happened next illustrates the limits of viewing family life from the perspective of legal and social ideals. James was confined to bed for the rest of the day, apparently as a result of his intoxication, and the rough treatment that he had received both that morning and afternoon.

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In the evening, Samuel Butler came by the Workman residence, although he reportedly did not bring his customary bottle of whiskey. Hugh [End Page ] testified that he heard Butler and his mother in conversation until he fell asleep. Hugh did not recall his mother coming to bed that night, but he remembered that she was up and about when he rose the following morning. Patterson testified that he was awakened when he heard someone who he felt was much heavier than James Workman pulling on his boots, and he went to the landing to see who it was.

The visitor had his back turned and could not be immediately identified by Patterson, whose curiosity motivated him to go downstairs.

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After inspecting the size of the footprints left in the ground by the boots that had awakened him, Patterson surmised that the man he had seen was Samuel Butler. Around six forty-five in the morning, Patterson rose for the day, and for a second time witnessed someone leave the Workman home. Patterson noticed that he was carrying a small bowl of what appeared to be pickles.