Explore Greater.

Victoria is a true one-of-a-kind land on the Pacific coast. Sign up to have travel guides, upcoming events, travel tips, and more delivered to your inbox.

Book Your Stay

Home > See & Do > Festivals & Events > Victoria Historical Society Talk

Event Details

Dates: September 28, 2023

Venue: James Bay New Horizons

Time: 7:30 pm to 9:00 pm

Location: Map

Admission: Free for VHS Members; $5 for guests

Victoria Historical Society Talk

Thursday, September 28 Victoria Historical Society presents their opening talk with Hamar Foster speaking about Judge Begbie: Does He Epitomize the Cruelty of Colonization. All VHS talks take place at James Bay New Horizons, 234 Menzies Street, Victoria V8V 2G7. James Bay New Horizons opens at 7:15 pm for refreshments and conversation; talk begins at 7:30 pm. Talks are free for VHS Members, $5 for guests.

Hamar Foster, KC, is an emeritus professor at the University of Victoria. He has been researching and writing about BC’s legal history for over forty years. His most recent projects include an article in the Manitoba Law Journal contrasting Emily Carr’s impressions of the Gitanyow people of Kitwancool in the late 1920s with those of the RCMP; co-editing, with Peter Cook, John Lutz, Neil Vallance and Graham Brazier, To Share Not Surrender: Indigenous and Settler Visions of Treaty-Making in the Colonies of Vancouver Island and British Columbia (UBC Press 2021); and an article entitled “As Sharp as a Knife: Judge Begbie and Reconciliation,” in John Borrows and Kent McNeil, ed. Voicing Identity: Cultural Appropriation and Indigenous Issues (U. of T. Press, 2022).

Matthew Baillie Begbie was controversial almost from the moment he stepped off the boat in 1858. And lately he has become controversial once again, primarily for his role in the trials following the Chilcotin War in 1864. As a result, the Benchers of the Law Society of BC removed his statue from their building in 2017; New Westminster followed suit by removing their statue of him from the city’s public square; and, just last year, the Vancouver School Board changed the name of Matthew Baillie Begbie Elementary to Wək̓ʷan̓əs tə syaqʷəm.

A colonial judge is, admittedly, no longer an appropriate symbol for the 21st century legal profession. But as one of Begbie’s successors as chief justice said: statues are seen as a sign of respect, and their removal is seen as a sign that respect is no longer due. He added that, although no historical figure is without flaws, it would be a mistake to allow Begbie’s life and work to be dismissed by the Benchers in the way it had been.

In fact, a strong case can be made that Begbie was more unpopular with a significant and vocal element of the settler community and the press of his day than he was with Indigenous people. The presentation will address this and some other issues raised by his critics, including his role in the 1864 trials; the question of colonial vs. Tsilhqot’in law; the matter of whether Begbie really was a “Hanging Judge;” his opinion and treatment of Indigenous peoples; and, generally, his record as a judge.

James Bay New Horizons

234 Menzies Street

Victoria, BC V8V 2G7

Get Directions