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Manitoba History: The Justice Mill: George William Baker at the Winnipeg Police Court, 1901-1903

by Stephen Grandpre
History Department, University of Western Ontario

Number 74, Winter 2014

On 28 April 1903 a large crowd gathered at Winnipeg’s James Street police court in anticipation of nearly two dozen cases set to be heard on that morning’s docket. Presiding at James Street was the city’s chief police magistrate, George William Baker. According to the Manitoba Free Press the spectators were particularly excited to see a “big gang of crapshooters” rounded up on charges of illegal gambling by the city police. To the crowd’s disappointment, the dozen men in question failed to appear for the hearing. Baker immediately had warrants issued for their arrest before moving on with the day’s business. Since being appointed to the post twenty months previously, Baker had garnered a reputation throughout the city as a no-nonsense lawman who dealt justice with speed and efficiency. Indeed, despite the many cases before the court, the Free Press noted that the morning’s docket was “quickly disposed of” by the magistrate. While most were dealt with summarily, a number were held over for further adjudication. At least a half-dozen drunks, including two soldiers and a man “so incapacitated … as to render his removal to St. Boniface hospital” were fined for their behaviour, as was a man summoned for “cycle coasting on the sidewalk.” Before wrapping up for the day, Baker also sentenced two boys brought in on charges of theft to two years in the youth reformatory. In the words of the Free Press reporter one of the boys, Walter Nunnery, appeared to be “a youth of bright appearance, who … had every advantage” in life, yet in the opinion of the police magistrate had “deliberately chosen a life of crime.” [1] On a day that saw the regular tally of bylaw infractions and other run-of-the-mill charges common to a city police court, Baker felt it incumbent upon him to pronounce judgement when presented with an incipient criminal. His reputation rested on it.

George William Baker (1854–1917) arrived in Winnipeg in 1881 and began practising law the following year. He served on the City Council in 1888, 1897, and 1898, and was a Police Magistrate from 1901 to 1903.

George William Baker (1854–1917) arrived in Winnipeg in 1881 and began practising law the following year. He served on the City Council in 1888, 1897, and 1898, and was a Police Magistrate from 1901 to 1903.
Source: Archives of Manitoba, Winnipeg Police Department 1, N23466.

The James Street police court was one of the best known buildings in early 20th-century Winnipeg. As the first level of the justice system, all those summoned or arrested on any charge, whether for bylaw infractions or serious criminal offences, could expect to appear before the police court bench. Indeed, for most citizens it was the only level of the justice system that they would likely ever experience. At the core of the institution was the police court magistrate. As the official responsible for deciding whether or not cases brought before the court merited dismissal, summary punishment, or transfer to a higher court, the police court magistrate exercised considerable authority and influence in the local community and within the provincial legal establishment.

Despite the importance of the police court in late 19th- and early 20th-century Canadian society, little has been written on the subject in its Winnipeg context. Legal historians have produced a number of studies charting the establishment and evolution of judicial institutions in Manitoba from the early years of fur-trade society through to the 20th century. Many have focussed on the ad-hoc nature of legal procedure and criminal justice under Hudson’s Bay Company rule and, in the period after 1870, on the office-holders, lawyers, and other personalities in the higher echelons of the provincial court system. [2] Though informative about the development of judicial practices and procedure, this literature seldom addresses the day-to-day workings of the criminal justice system. And while the institution has drawn considerable attention from Canadian police and criminal justice historians generally, [3] the police court has thus far been neglected in studies of Winnipeg police and social history. [4]

This essay seeks to address this gap in the historiography by considering the career of one of Winnipeg’s most infamous police magistrates, the aforementioned George William Baker. Baker served at the James Street police court from August 1901 to December 1903, a brief tenure relative to the standard of the office. During this time Baker was nonetheless responsible for the prosecution and sentencing of thousands of individual cases, ranging from minor bylaw infractions to more serious crimes against property and the person. While on the bench he also became involved in some of the city’s most pressing social and political questions. Immigration, moral reform, vice, and the problem of juvenile delinquency were among the many issues debated at the James Street police court. Central to this investigation is the importance of image and reputation in the constitution of the police court magistracy. Baker’s judicial style in many ways defined the experiences of those brought before him. It also contributed to his eventual dismissal from the James Street bench. Examining the workings of the police court during Baker’s tenure adds to our understanding of the social history of early 20th-century Winnipeg, the role of the police court within the modern police system, and the relationship among citizens, legislators, and the law.

Baker’s rise to the magisterial bench was similar to many of the men who rose to positions of political and economic power in Manitoba in the decades after Confederation. Born in Ottawa, Ontario in 1854, Baker was educated at local grammar schools, read law, and practised as a barrister before making the decision to join the migration of Ontarians to western Canada in August 1881. [5] After arriving in Winnipeg, Baker quickly established himself as a hard-working and competent clerk in the offices of Walker & Andrews. Indeed, less than two months after his first day of work he was “acting as partner” in the firm and was put in charge of litigations. In 1882 he was officially called to the Manitoba Bar. [6] Like many new arrivals in the city, Baker spent his first months in a succession of hated boarding houses and rented rooms. Even though he spent most of his waking hours at the law firm, he saw enough of the city to be completely taken in by the bazaar-like atmosphere of boomtime Winnipeg. He recorded with amazement the frenzied real estate deals that took place in the auction houses and streets of the city, and in true booster style believed that Canada’s future lay in Winnipeg and the West. “The more one sees of the Country,” he wrote in his diary from this period, “the more one is impressed with its greatness.” [7]

Unlike many of the men he shared rooms with, however, Baker arrived in Winnipeg with familial connections that would all but ensure his future among the city’s social and cultural elite. He was related through his stepmother to Alexander Begg—local businessman, journalist, essayist, and a founding member of the Historical and Scientific Society of Manitoba. Through Begg, Baker was ushered into the social circles of the city’s upper crust. By day, he built his career within Winnipeg’s growing legal and business establishment; by night, he frequented the dinners and social soirées of such notable families as the McMickens and Norquays, and sat in all the right pews at Holy Trinity and Christ Church Anglican. [8] Over the next two decades Baker continued to rise within Winnipeg’s social and political establishment, and he confirmed his success in the city by way of election to City Council three times before the end of the century. [9]

The magisterial office that Baker was to occupy was central to the social fabric of late 19th- and early 20th-century urban Canada. As the first level of the justice system, police courts were the busiest public forums in the nation, overseeing thousands of cases yearly. The police court magistracy, as the successor to Crown-appointed justices of the peace and municipal courts chaired by elected officials, “had a part in processing virtually all criminal offenses” brought before the justice system during the period. [10] Bylaw infractions and public order offences constituted the vast majority of cases brought before the court, and were dealt with by the police magistrate directly. In cases of serious offence—criminal charges of an indictable nature—proceedings in police court served as the preliminary hearing before being sent to the provincial court for adjudication.

Maintenance of the civic court system was thus one of the most important tasks of municipal governance, and along with the establishment of a full-time, salaried constabulary was a crucial element of 19th-century police reform. [11] In Winnipeg, the police court was so busy that it was required to sit almost every weekday from its inception. Initially consisting of the Mayor and aldermen “in their capacity as ex officio justices of the peace,” and later by appointed individuals from outside City Hall, the police magistrate heard and tried offences summarily against municipal bylaws after 1876. [12] It was formally established as a quasi-independent, stipendiary office in 1883. [13] This reform also made police magistrates members of the Board of Police Commissioners who oversaw the operations of the police department. Thus not only was the magistrate a member of the provincial judiciary, he was also an officer of the municipal government. By the turn of the century the police court, located inside the central police station and gaol at 223 James Street across from City Hall, heard evidence concerning infractions from across the civil and criminal code.

On 8 August 1901, Provincial Secretary D. H. McFadden wrote to Baker informing him of Order-in-Council no. 7510, which appointed Baker provincial police magistrate for the city of Winnipeg, with a salary of $600 per annum. [14] The Attorney General’s office wrote to City Council informing it of the decision, and on 10 August the appointment was officially announced to the public in the Manitoba Gazette. [15] Baker’s first weeks as magistrate were not without scandal, however, and the city press questioned the manner of his appointment. The sitting magistrate, Alexander Dawson, was removed from the bench by the provincial government the same week as Baker’s appointment. No reasons for the government’s decision were provided to the public. [16] Accusations of political cronyism and back-corridor favours were levelled by the city press at the newly elected provincial administration of R. P. Roblin. It was suggested that the Roblin government, by summarily dismissing Dawson and replacing him with Baker, had acted improperly by placing their ‘own’ man on the bench. The Manitoba Free Press commented on the affair, stating that “The Police Magistracy of a city like Winnipeg is a judicial position and by tradition and by custom its occupant should hold office for life, or until retired in consequence of an investigation based on charges.” [17] The Winnipeg Daily Tribune also criticized the manner of Baker’s appointment. Its editorial column stated that Baker was well suited for the job and could be held personally in the highest esteem, but regarded Magistrate Dawson’s summary dismissal without reason as highly suspect. There was concern that the “spoils” system risked making the office of police magistrate “a pawn in the game of partisan politics.” [18] Under the BNA Act, however, the provincial government did reserve the legal right to dismiss and appoint magistrates, and Baker took his post without further dissension.

Baker’s personality and judicial style in many ways made him a fitting choice for the job. The public regarded police courts not only as places of justice, but also of cheap (indeed free) entertainment. The personality and bearing of the magistrate was an essential feature of this urban theatre. [19] Baker’s actions and demeanour during his first day on the bench served as overture to the way the James Street court would operate throughout his tenure. He arrived without fanfare and got straight down to business, trying a dozen men charged with public drunkenness. One was remanded, and the others fined according to the state of their inebriation. The Manitoba Free Press approvingly reported that the drunks received “but scant sympathy” from Baker. [20] He also remanded Archibald Walker on a charge of stealing the princely sum of $1 from former mayor James Ashdown, one of the city’s wealthiest men. [21] Baker was keen to assert his authority and define his image in the city from his first day on the bench, especially in his dealings with such miscreants as drunks and thieves. As the Winnipeg Daily Tribune recorded, it was clear that Baker was “determined to have the law respected.” [22]

During his time at James Street, Baker cultivated an image of himself as a stern defender of British justice. Given the state of the police court when he arrived, this was not exactly an easy task. Police courts in the prairie west did not exude the kind of symbolic majesty found in some of the older colonial courtrooms of the east, and certainly not those of old England. [23] For decades the James Street court was known throughout the city as a filthy and wretched place. Upon Baker’s arrival, an attempt was made to make it look more the part of a chamber exhibiting the judicial power of the magistrate. The city carpenter got to work, a new desk was ordered, and the platform that it was set on was raised, in order that Baker could “preside in state.” [24] He used his new position to its fullest extent. Police magistrates were popular figures in late Victorian Canada, and were often sought out by the press for their opinions on a variety of issues. [25] From his perch, Baker frequently pronounced his views on the meaning and purpose of English law, which he believed was “the embodiment of the wisdom of centuries,” strict yet impartial, and was the glory of the British race. [26] He was also given to impromptu speeches on matters of importance to Canada and the British Empire. For instance, he called a public meeting to be held at the court in order to celebrate the British victory in the Second Boer War. On this occasion and others, he summoned members of the police force to listen to his perorations. [27]

Despite the sometimes theatrical tone of Baker’s proceedings, the number of cases brought before the court meant that a great deal had to be dealt with swiftly and with little “procedural formalism.” [28] Baker especially disliked civil cases, and would often state that his court was to be used purely for the adjudication of criminal offences, and not for the collection of debts. [29] He thus took a cavalier attitude toward many civil cases, dismissing those that irritated him if he thought the complaint trifling or when the tone of debate degenerated into childish bickering. [30] However, many criminal cases were dealt with in much the same way. Depending on the case load and Baker’s mood, some “days” at court lasted little more than half an hour, some barely fifteen minutes. Liquor offences constituted the majority of cases brought to what the press labelled Baker’s “justice mill.” The charge “drunk on the street” was indeed so common that the clerk of the court had a rubber stamp reading the charge made specially in October 1902 to save him time in the record book. [31] After a busy weekend’s haul was paraded into the chamber, Baker had defendants stand together in order to dispose of the caseload quickly. Many, of course, pleaded guilty, which helped the process along. Nevertheless, Baker took the opportunity to comment on their behaviour, and along with the fine treated them to his “weekly Monday morning sermon” against the evils of excessive drink. [32]

Many days at police court witnessed a wide variety of cases heard and the court docket was often packed, to the delight of police court reporters. One day in October 1901 saw thirty cases brought before Baker, ranging from drunk, drunk and disorderly, vagrancy, furious driving of a bicycle, wage disputes between master and servant, assault and battery, and spousal abuse. [33] The list of defendants brought before the court was equally diverse: labourers, contractors, mechanics, lawyers, tradesmen, wholesale dealers, and ministers of the gospel. [34] When presented with a captive audience, Baker rarely missed the chance to lecture all present, whether on personal follies or the importance of the newly introduced road laws. He often softened his harsh sentences with his own brand of gallows humour that the condemned even appeared to enjoy on occasion. [35]

Members of Winnipeg’s new police force stand in front of the Police Court on James Street, 1886.

Members of Winnipeg’s new police force stand in front of the Police Court on James Street, 1886.
Source: Archives of Manitoba, Winnipeg Police Department 11, N11699.

Baker was, however, very concerned to present himself as a man of compassion and decency in his dealings with the unfortunates brought before him. For example, he would sometimes pick one man out of the dozens in court, offer himself as the man’s personal saviour and declare, as he did to Robert Halliday in November 1901, that he was “going to try to reform” him. [36] Men like Halliday would be taken aside for a personal chat with the judge about their condition in life. George Reid, for example, who was brought in for public drunkenness, was treated to a “heart to heart” with the magistrate about his alcoholism. [37] Baker used these episodes to add to his professional image. He pitied himself for giving in to charity, and patronized the drunks and prostitutes he felt he let off easy, stating that they were “the dilemmas I have to deal with.” [38] As a result of this selective paternalism, individuals received vastly different sentences for similar, if not the very same, offence. The Manitoba Free Press defended Baker’s inconsistent sentencing by arguing that while to the casual observer his record might suggest “confusion in the mind of the man of rule,” it was in fact an example of principled British justice, whose “application … must ever vary with individuals and circumstance.” [39] It remained, however, a tenuous balancing act, and could appear to run the gamut from discretionary to arbitrary. On Christmas Eve 1901, for example, Baker sentenced Thomas Machaffie, a soldier stationed at Fort Osborne barracks, to five years in prison for entering the house of F. W. Stobart while drunk. It was the heaviest sentence ever handed out in the history of the James Street court. [40] Yet only two days later, on Boxing Day, he dismissed ten drunks with only a reprimand and gave a woman charged with vagrancy a day to find gainful employment. According to the Manitoba Free Press, Baker was a model of Christian charity: “his worship … tempered justice with mercy on account of the festive season.” [41]

While some were fortunate to benefit from Baker’s judicial discretion, there were others who suffered on account of his misplaced benevolence which, when combined with late-Victorian ideas of domestic propriety and the sanctity of the private life, could make a mockery of James Street as a bastion of justice. Wife-beaters, in particular, could expect easy treatment by Baker; they were usually simply fined and given a lecture on the “cowardice” of their behaviour. [42] When James Garrett was brought in on charges of assault, Baker had the man’s wife summoned. He “gave them both a straight talk on the value of domestic felicity” along with a $5 fine and costs of court. [43] Similarly, when the drunken bully Rudolph Schor was arrested for assaulting his wife and violently throwing her out onto the street, Baker remanded him for a day “to see if some arrangement by which the couple can live together amicably” could be found. [44]

There were certain offences, however, that did not escape Baker’s wrath. He regarded vagrancy, petty theft, and other crimes against property and morality as among the most dangerous threats to the social order. In cases of theft Baker often handed out lengthy jail sentences, while recidivist thieves received little if any sympathy. [45] Such was his belief in the sanctity of property that even the most pathetic cases of petty theft received no quarter. In the winter of 1902, Baker sentenced an elderly man to two years’ penal servitude for stealing a coat to protect himself from the cold. Despite the man’s desperate pleas for leniency, Baker stated that he felt it best to protect the public from his very presence. [46] Baker also regarded vagrancy as a moral failing of the highest order. Under Canadian law ‘vagrancy’ had many meanings, and was applied equally by law-enforcement officials to people such as street-walkers, inmates of bawdy houses, and the homeless unemployed as a means of keeping the streets clear and defusing threats to public order. [47] Baker had a special distaste for the wandering unemployed. They were, he announced, nothing but “worthless individuals who … refuse[d] to follow any honest calling,” were “the meanest sort of parasites,” and by far “the worst class of people” in the city. [48] Unlike other magistrates, Baker would often deliberately demean those brought before him on vagrancy charges before sending them to the provincial gaol. [49] In cases of vagrancy Baker often saw no chance for the reforming power of the Vaughan Street lockup. Instead, he recommended the individuals remove themselves from the city altogether, often suggesting the United States as a fitting exile. [50] In late 1903 he engaged in a public “war on vagrants” in concert with the city police force. He handed out lengthy prison sentences, and banished many vagrants from the city until he deemed them fit for return. [51]

Any given day at the James Street court witnessed a wide range of offences and offenders. Public order and liquor offences, however, constituted the majority of cases heard. In this respect the police court experience under Baker was no different from that of other urban police courts across Canada during the period. From the beginning of his tenure, however, Baker was intent on asserting his own particular way of dealing with certain issues and people in court. As a result, judicial impartiality was often trumped by his personal prejudices. The ways Baker dealt with ethnic minorities, prostitution, and juvenile delinquency— people and issues of special concern in early 20th-century Winnipeg—illustrated the manner by which he sought to cultivate and preserve his image in the city. In the end, it also led to his dismissal.

Baker was appointed police magistrate during the period of greatest demographic growth in Winnipeg’s history. Thousands of immigrants arrived from across eastern and southern Europe, and settled in ethnic enclaves in the city’s infamous North End. [52] Many appeared before him in court, on much the same charges as the majority British-Canadians. While Baker shared the prejudices of the late-Victorian period regarding “foreigners” and their place in Canadian society, his was not the sort of brutish nativism characteristic of other police court magistrates. [53] Baker did, however, believe in the law as a civilizing agent in dealing with newcomers. “Foreigners settling in this country,” he stated, “must be impressed with the fact that the laws must be respected.” [54] When dealing with public order or liquor offences, for example, he rarely showed leniency if ‘cultural’ factors—language difficulties, unfamiliarity with the law—were offered in defence. [55]

In his dealings with immigrants Baker seized the opportunity to exercise his discretionary powers. To his credit, he could not abide employment agents who took advantage of immigrants looking for work, and despite his dislike of civil cases he did not object to hearing wage disputes of this kind. [56] When three young Galician girls “in traditional dress” took their employer to court over non-payment of wages in December 1901, Baker took it upon himself to represent them from the bench after being convinced of their sound character. He easily found in their favour. [57] In January 1903, he informed City Council of frequent complaints brought to his court concerning the similar conduct of the city’s own employment agency. He stated that the “abuse” of the system by the officers in charge constituted a “great injustice,” and recommended steps be taken “with the view that this evil be remedied.” [58] The Christmas season could also have quite an effect on Baker’s mood. On Boxing Day 1902, Casell Eamgi, an Italian employed by the United Fruit Company, was brought in on charges of assault after drawing a knife and assaulting a fellow employee. Though found guilty of the offence, Baker took sympathy with Eamgi, whom he believed had been provoked by the plaintiff (he had in fact slapped Eamgi in the face during an argument). Giving the “enraged Italian” the option of a fine or jail time, Baker pointed out the error of his ways and informed him “that in this part of the world it was considered unnecessary to carry knives.” [59]

Other immigrants, however, did not receive the same sympathy. Baker was concerned about allowing entry of “undesirables” into Canada, which in his mind included Britons of dubious intelligence and morals. When Thomas Corney was brought in on a charge of theft in November 1901, the man’s questionable mental capacity led Baker to take the extraordinary decision of having him deported back to England. Baker commented that the case was an example of “the evils of immigration that individuals of [his] caliber … were allowed to migrate to the country.” [60] The Corney decision became a sort of benchmark for Baker. When other immigrants deemed suspicious were brought up on charges, he would refer back to the case to justify his heavy sentencing. Canada, he stated with regret, “was looked upon by some people as a sort of huge reformatory [for which] it was never intended.” [61]

The double-edged sword of judicial discretion was nowhere more apparent than in Baker’s treatment of the city’s Jewish population. ‘Hebrews’ were treated with little respect in his courtroom, and were consistently and heavily fined for violating the city’s Sunday early closing bylaw. Although enforced only haphazardly by the city police, Jewish storeowners and peddlers were frequently summonsed for breaking the Sabbath law on information from private citizens. [62] In court, Baker was known to talk in an arrogant and insolent manner to Jewish defendants, and a minor scandal erupted when Ben Zimmerman, a visiting JP, was arrested on Baker’s orders for contempt of court after protesting the way Baker mistreated Jews. [63] Baker’s actions led groups of Jews to crowd his courtroom when Jewish defendants appeared in the dock. The problem became so pronounced that a Jewish delegation from the North End approached the Attorney General to lodge an official complaint concerning Baker’s prejudicial attitude. It was the first of many brought to the province’s attention in the coming months. [64]

Baker’s tenure also coincided with the peak years of Winnipeg’s social and moral reform movement. The movement regarded prostitution as the city’s most glaring evil and was its main target. [65] A widespread market in vice had been present since the incorporation of the city. Combatting it was a subject of perennial irritation to Winnipeg’s police establishment, who seldom had the resources or willpower to enforce anti-vice legislation in an effective manner. [66] As police magistrate, Baker inevitably became involved in debates over the ‘white slavery’ problem. While presenting himself as an opponent of organized vice, Baker’s sentences for prostitution-related offences ebbed and flowed with the degree of police enforcement. The occasional police action, centred on mass raids of known bawdy houses, was orthodox policy in the city. Baker employed a similar approach when dealing with vice cases. Conventional practice in his court was the obligatory fine and sermon, punctuated by the occasional prison sentence when an example needed to be set, or public opinion placated. Baker’s manner of dealing with vice was no doubt influenced by the outlook of the wider police institution. Most law-enforcement officials and civic authorities in the city believed that the vice problem simply could not be stopped, and that attempts to eradicate it served only to bring unwanted national press that would further tarnish Winnipeg’s reputation. Semi-tolerance was seen as the practicable solution and, during Baker’s tenure, was achieved by geographically containing the trade along Thomas Street in the West End, and later in the notorious Point Douglas area. [67]

Baker, nevertheless, had to keep up appearances. He presented himself to the press as a determined foe of prostitution, and stated that the “unlawful traffic” had to be stopped. “The regeneration of poor fallen women,” he declared, was “one of the greatest dilemmas for the administration of justice.” [68] He also stated that his court “would take any means possible to put a stop to the keeping of such houses in our midst.” [69] Two months into his tenure the police engaged in a series of raids on local brothels and arrested several known madams. The raids received public support from Baker who, as the Morning Telegram put it, was seen as leading “a mild crusade” against vice. [70] At police court, however, Baker’s determination to prosecute vice was not so apparent. As in his dealings with drunken offenders, for example, he prosecuted certain individuals heavily, while offering others pity and advice. While some prostitutes and madams were punished with sentences of up to six months in the Vaughan Street gaol along with a hefty fine, others—usually younger girls and those who appeared painfully naïve—received suspended sentences and were cautioned by Baker “to lead a better life.” [71] Perhaps he preferred to not have to deal with the matter at all: in 1903 he also began ordering prostitutes to leave the city instead of sending them to jail. [72]

Banishment and fines, however, were not enough for the influential moral reform movement, which was determined that more concerted action was required. In the autumn of 1903 a massive campaign for the suppression of vice was undertaken by social reform activists and led by prominent clergymen such as the uncompromising Reverend Frederic B. Du Val. [73] Huge public meetings were held across the city in what was labelled a “moral crusade” by the city press. [74] Baker was present at these meetings as a member of the Board of Police Commissioners. The Board, along with the police and City Council, was put under intense pressure to combat the social evil. The police department stepped up action by leading well publicized raids on houses of ill fame as well as illegal gambling joints. [75] Baker’s attitude throughout the whole episode is notable in that he remained relatively aloof during the proceedings and refrained from publicly taking a position. At demonstrations and meetings he was content to play the role of mediator between City Council representatives and reformers, asking the movement’s more hard-line activists for patience and restraint in their demands on the police. [76]

Baker undoubtedly sensed the gravity of the situation. For a man concerned with his reputation, his was in many ways an impossible situation. He could either crack down on prostitution and ingratiate himself with the reform movement, or follow the policy set by his colleagues at City Hall and the police department. As Mariana Valverde points out, prostitution was “caught up in a web of interests … that made it impossible for authorities to settle on any policy and be consistent in its enforcement.” [77] As it turned out, Baker was unable to remain on the fence between social reform crusaders and an intransigent City Council: he was dismissed before mass police raids took place in January 1904 on brothel houses on Thomas Street, where much of the vice trade was centred. Until then, it was business as usual at James Street.

On the subject of juvenile delinquency, however, Baker showed no such reluctance. As with prostitution, there was widespread public concern during the period over the presence of “idle children” on the streets of Winnipeg. Truant children were seen as delinquent adults in the making, and compulsory school attendance was a key topic in the fierce debates over education policy in Manitoba. [78] In 1908 the federal Juvenile Delinquents Act led to the creation of young offenders’ courts across the country, with Thomas Mayne Daly (Baker’s eventual successor at James Street) chairing the first juvenile court in Winnipeg in January 1909. As Tamara Myers argues, the Act “projected a national consensus that children … were to be spared adult punishments in favour of treatment that began in the child-friendly juvenile court.” [79] Until then, however, children regularly appeared before Baker at police court, and it was on the “bad boy” problem more than any other that he chose to base his legacy and public image.

Thomas Mayne Daly (1852–1911) had already been a lawyer, Brandon City Mayor, and Member of Parliament by the time he succeeded George Baker as Winnipeg Police Magistrate. When the Juvenile Court was organized in 1909, he became its first judge.

Thomas Mayne Daly (1852–1911) had already been a lawyer, Brandon City Mayor, and Member of Parliament by the time he succeeded George Baker as Winnipeg Police Magistrate. When the Juvenile Court was organized in 1909, he became its first judge.
Source: Archives of Manitoba, Personalities - Daly, T. M. 2.

In late 1901 the press began reporting that juvenile crime in the city was reaching “epidemic” proportions. Baker had already been fining boys for unruly behaviour—offences such as using foul language, playing with catapults, and exhibiting disorderly conduct on the Sabbath—and stated that he was (not surprisingly) “determined to put a stop to such practices.” [80] The magistrate was keen to present himself as a progressive humanitarian in dealing with wayward youths. He stated that delinquency was the result of neglect and that parents were ultimately responsible for their children’s behaviour. Interviewed by the Free Press in December 1901 for his views on crime and policing, he opined: “I have to ascertain in the end, the history of the family life, the treatment of the boy at home, and the condition of the parents, in order to do the boy justice. I do not wish to brand the boy a criminal if I can help it.” [81] When juvenile offenders were brought to James Street, Baker devised a system by which to assess the situation. He requested that parents be brought in with their children, and if unimpressed by the parents’ character would reprimand them for letting their children roam the city. As in his dealings with adult offenders, he also offered guidance to the child. As one sympathetic observer at court wrote, Baker “spoke to the young offenders as a kind and loving father might have done,” an approach guided by his belief that “many boys are more sinned against than sinning.” [82] Baker later indicated that he believed that “99 out of 100 boys would keep on the right track if the better part of their nature was appealed to.” [83]

Over the course of the next year the magistrate continued to deal with ‘bad boys’ brought before him in much the same manner. When young John Nicol was brought in for pilfering a bicycle in October 1902, Baker lectured the boy on the immorality of his actions before inquiring of the father’s role in his life. When the father claimed that he could not look after his son because his horses needed constant tending, Baker was incensed: “That is just the trouble in Winnipeg … The reason we have so many bad boys is because of the neglect—the criminal neglect—of the parents. You think more of your horses than you do of the boy, and that is just the way crime commences that ends on the gallows.” [84] In the Nicol case and others, Baker employed a system not unlike parole: sentence was suspended, the boy was ordered to report to him every Saturday on his progress in school, and the father to pay for damages and costs of court. [85]

“Baker’s Method,” as it became known, was central to the image he constructed of himself at the James Street court. In the public eye he wished to appear as a reasonable, if not slightly indulgent, lawman who made an attempt to identify the “root causes” of youthful deviancy, an image supported by the genuine use of “progressive” judicial methods. [86] Moreover, despite his penchant for long prison sentences, when it came to young offenders Baker harboured doubts as to the reforming capabilities of the penitentiary. He was keen to keep boys away from places like Stony Mountain Penitentiary where, he warned, their transformation into irredeemable criminals would be all but complete. [87] He also spoke in favour of reformist institutions such as industrial schools for misguided youths, and suggested that the city implement coercive measures such as public curfews as a means to keep children off the streets. [88]

Even with children there was a limit to Baker’s compassion and understanding. While many young offenders were saved from the brink of degeneracy, he was always ready to make an example of others. Theft was always taken seriously at James Street, whatever the age of the offender. This was especially the case when Baker himself was personally aggrieved by juvenile crime. In June 1902, for example, he stepped down from the bench to act as prosecutor in a case of theft perpetrated by a young man he employed as a domestic servant. After being found guilty by acting magistrate Mayor John Arbuthnot, Baker took the opportunity to pontificate on the dangers of Canada’s immigration policy and announced to those in court that the boy was “a sample of morally irresponsible people being brought to [Canadian] shores,” and that “it was time that [Canada] was rid of such a class, and the system of dumping them on our shores stopped.” [89] Baker ignored the fact that the boy had no parents to give him guidance, and suggested deportation as the best possible option. [90]

The tediousness of the job and the frustration of dealing with repeat offenders eventually took its toll, and over the course of Baker’s second year on the bench he began to regularly hand out longer sentences, especially for property crimes. [91] Juvenile crime and truancy remained a topic of press interest during the spring of 1902. It was at this point that Baker’s notoriety in the city reached a new level when he began implementing corporal punishment as a means of dealing with young offenders. [92] It was, perhaps, only a matter of time. Despite statements to the contrary, Baker always believed that there were large numbers of boys in the city “that appeared to be entirely uncontrollable, and had no respect for the law,” and that steps had to be taken “to bring them to a sense of their duty.” [93] The first victim of his new offensive aimed at bad boys was Adolph Beetz, who was brought in and found guilty of theft in April 1902. After subjecting the boy to a stern lecture from the bench, Baker suspended sentence and “suggested” that corporal punishment be administered, to serve as a public example of the new measures being taken at James Street. [94] The boy was taken to an upstairs room of the adjoining police station and, in order to give the event a kind of official gloss, flogged in the presence of Police Chief McRae. As the Evening Telegram reported, the boy “shrieked for mercy, but without avail, and his cries could be heard for blocks.” [95]

The physical punishment of children was by no means foreign to Canadian society during this period. The strap, the rod, the birch, and the hand were all widely applied in Canadian schools well into the 20th century. The legal basis for the use of corporal punishment in Canadian courts was, however, vague, especially in respect to youths. Flogging was sanctioned as a method of punishment for male prisoners for some violent and sexual offences. However, not until the Juvenile Delinquents Act were youths between the ages of seven and sixteen legally considered liable for such criminal prosecution. [96] Ambiguous in law, serious doubts were also being raised as to its practical and ethical efficacy, and was looked upon with increasing reluctance by parents, educators, and law-enforcement officials. [97] Indeed, in the Beetz case the boy’s father initially declined to acquiesce to Baker’s suggestion, as did several policemen who were present. Only when faced with a heavy fine did the boy’s father thrash him in a manner “which satisfied the magistrate.” [98] Satisfied Baker evidently was. It was not long before “applying the strap to the backs of incorrigible boys” was being reported as the “rule” at the police court. [99] Throughout the summer of 1902 the cries of children could be heard emanating from the James Street complex, and while Baker continued to follow his method of reprimanding and fining the parents, both parties were not to leave until the child was treated to “a good flogging” under the watchful eye of Chief McRae. [100] So convinced was Baker of the efficacy of the strap that its use was eventually extended to young girls. In August 1902, he found twelve-year-old Teresa Tapi guilty of stealing a bicycle and “ordered that she be given a whipping,” which was administered by her mother. [101] Others at City Hall were also won over to the new form of punishment. In the same month Mayor Arbuthnot, acting as police magistrate in Baker’s absence, recommended the strap be used against a boy brought in for swearing. [102]

If, as Douglas Hay argues, terror can be regarded as “the raw material of authority,” then the use of corporal punishment by Baker was the fulcrum upon which his particular system of justice at James Street came to be balanced. [103] From his first day on the bench, Baker built a reputation as both a man of compassion and a man of rule: a persona he sought to sustain through the occasional act of judicial terror, tempered by the occasional act of paternalist mercy. The fact that it was all done on record, in plain view of the public and in the case of children with the involvement of the parents served only to provide the veneer of legality and the appearance of due discretion. So successful was Baker in cultivating this image that, to many, James Street itself came to be defined by his judicial style. By July 1902 the Free Press could write that because of his methods, the police court “has attained a reputation as a place where the evil-minded are turned from their way and the crooked are made straight.” [104]

There were, however, many who were becoming uneasy with Baker’s methods. Since at least the autumn of 1901 members of the public questioned the fairness, if not the legality, of some of the magistrate’s decisions. [105] Public criticism of both his attitude on the bench and his heavy sentencing increased during the summer of 1902. Groups of citizens joined the city’s Jewish residents in lodging complaints with provincial ministers. [106] Baker’s penchant for the strap in particular received attention from many in the province. Word about the methods used at James Street also reached concerned ears in Ottawa. Officials from the federal Department of Justice wrote to Baker questioning his use of corporal punishment. Strikingly, considering the request, his reply simply read: “I have not yet imposed any sentence of whipping. Whatever whipping has been done was done by and with the consent of the Parent.” [107] However, Baker was much more candid when the police magistrate at Portage la Prairie wrote with the same question. In reply Baker had the clerk of the court point out that he “possesse[d] no power to award flogging in the direct sense.” However, by remanding the case and “intimating” that flogging may be desirable, he would then suspend sentence with the tacit understanding of the parents and the police authority of what would follow. [108]

Baker’s actions did receive strong support from some of the city’s most powerful and influential citizens. Such support ranged from a general tough-on-crime attitude to opinions bordering on the masochistic. Former Mayor James Ashdown, for example, wrote in a letter to Baker: “Under the circumstances I thought it well to drop you a line to say that my own impression is (and I believe that of the great majority of the Citizens of Winnipeg) that you have been doing your duty thoroughly at the Police Court: that the sentences imposed have not been more sever [sic] than the circumstances called for and that your dealing with the boys has had a very beneficial effect, and that your whole action has been decidedly in the interest of the law abiding community.” [109] He went on to express his hope that Baker would have a long tenure as magistrate, and that he continue to “mete out justice without fear of favor.” [110] Others were not so reserved. In a letter to the city press the Reverend H. St. George Buttrum wrote: “the fear of physical suffering seems in many cases the only way of appealing to some who either possess no moral consciousness, or in whom [it has] been dwarfed or blunted … Corporal punishment, properly and mercifully administered … is the best way of nipping in the bud embryo criminals.” [111] The lash was also seen by some in the city as a particularly salient punishment for a certain kind of young hood—the “moral degenerate from birth,” who, “possessing little brain power, his instincts are those of the animal, and like many animals, his sensibilities can only be touched through his hide.” [112]

Under pressure, Baker answered the criticisms in the press, arguing that his sentences were more than just and were proving an effective deterrent to malefactors. Despite reports to the contrary, he congratulated himself on “solving” the city’s bad-boy problem, which, he argued, had been achieved through his pioneering method of the biweekly check-in, many of the boys reporting to him directly. Baker pointed out that social-service and lawenforcement professionals in the city were in favour of his (non-violent) methods, among them Chief McRae and Superintendent of Winnipeg schools Daniel McIntyre. [113] Most importantly, Baker claimed that fear of his court had led to a decrease in “actual crime” in the city. Given the inherent unreliability of crime figures, it is of course extremely difficult to test Baker’s assertions. However, a decrease in “actual crime,” however defined, is unlikely. [114] In fact, the police court record shows a steady rise in the number of cases brought to James Street throughout the summer, and would continue to grow when thousands of agricultural labourers began arriving in the city for the summer harvest. [115] Baker successfully defended himself against his critics, however, and public interest in the topic soon diminished.

It was not until the autumn of 1903 that his methods were again under scrutiny. This time, rumours of his dismissal began to circulate. The period from August to December 1903 was especially trying for Baker. Not only was the crusade against vice intensifying, record numbers of cases were also being brought before the James Street bench. Each month the police court docket grew larger: by the end of the year, a record 3132 cases were adjudicated. [116] Baker’s position within the police institution was questioned when it was noticed that Mayor Arbuthnot was sitting in for him more often than usual. Eyebrows were further raised when the Attorney General’s office refused to comment on the matter when asked by the press. [117] In October, the Winnipeg Daily Tribune reported that there was “dissatisfaction in certain circles” with Baker’s performance. [118] The increasingly arbitrary nature of his decisions and his flippant manner were cited as causes. Baker’s habit of dismissing cases on a whim had become noticeably more frequent. It was claimed that many of his decisions were increasingly based not on the nature or circumstances of the offence, but on such factors as whether or not he approved of the prisoner’s attitude, deportment, or tone of voice. [119] There were also concerns over Baker’s apparent disregard for proper legal procedure. In August Baker’s professional fitness was questioned when the events surrounding the Herbert Dore case became public. Dore, arrested on a charge of obstructing the sidewalk and interfering with police business, claimed in court that he was assaulted by Police Constable Newton at the central police station. After a two-day trial complete with counsel and multiple witnesses called, Dore was found guilty and fined. [120] Scandal erupted when it was reported that Baker appeared to have arrived at a guilty verdict before proceedings had even finished. Witnesses claimed that his decision and comments on the case appeared to be read from a prepared manuscript. When asked by the defendant’s lawyer whether this was indeed the case, Baker freely admitted that he had come to his decision before the hearing. [121]

Up to this point Baker’s grasp of legal procedure was rarely called into question. However, there were instances over the course of the previous two years that could have affected the way in which observers subsequently viewed his actions. In October 1901 he became the first stipendiary magistrate in the city’s history to send a man to Stony Mountain Federal Penitentiary directly from the police court. The fact that the defendant, an American citizen, entered a self-defence plea was seen by many as cause for the case to have been sent to a higher court. [122] On that occasion Baker argued that after consulting judges of the supreme court on the extent of his powers (which of these powers was not made clear), he felt he was in the right. [123] This practice was not uncommon: from September 1901 to September 1902, only twelve cases at James Street were sent to the provincial court for trial, compared to seventyone for the previous year. [124] Questions were raised as to how many cases tried summarily should have, according to proper procedure, been sent to the higher courts for adjudication.

Certain inconsistencies in his judicial method throughout his tenure were also apparent. For instance, while he often justified heavy sentences on the basis of defendants’ past infractions, at other times he would disregard previous convictions, stating that “having [once] suffered for the crime, whatever it was, it was cancelled.” [125] Moreover, as his tenure progressed, his pronouncements from the bench became increasingly spiteful and at times (even when the exaggerations of police court reporters are considered) verged on the paranoid. [126] Baker also went from humiliating defendants to lecturing lawyers in his courtroom. In September 1902 attorney Harold Turnbull claimed that Baker had considered evidence not heard in court in arriving at a decision against his client. Furious at this challenge, Baker retorted: “I have a right to obtain what information I please from any source I please, and I have the precedent of the British, German, and French courts to sustain me,” and after continued protestations by Turnbull, ordered him to keep quiet. [127]

Given Baker’s reputation on the subject of juvenile crime, it was perhaps ironic that it was a case involving young offenders that precipitated his final downfall. In October 1903 Baker fined two young girls brought before him $10 and costs of court on a charge of taking wood from a city woodlot. Police court reporters noted that there was widespread revulsion at how Baker leered at the girls, “like he is wont to do upon the most disgusting criminality,” and the manner in which he spoke to their terrified mother, whom he accused of bringing up her children to be criminals. [128] One noted that several of the policemen present in court were especially unnerved at the sight of “two little girls, scarcely old enough to know the meaning of the word ‘steal’,” standing in the prisoners’ dock and having evidence given against them by an older man, in this case the yard attendant. [129] The case was the latest in a series in which citizens had “frequently appealed” to the Mayor regarding Baker’s demeanour in court and his harsh sentencing. As in earlier cases, Baker was accused of ignoring proper judicial procedure by basing his decisions on testimony from the police before the cases were heard in court. [130]

Public indignation led to the matter being discussed in the chamber of the provincial legislature and at a cabinet meeting presided over by Premier Roblin. The government’s dissatisfaction with Baker was made clear the following morning when a representative of the Attorney General’s office arrived at James Street to “request” that the sentence against the girls be revoked and the fine refunded to their mother. Baker duly acceded. [131] Continuing public disquiet over the following weeks, however, led the provincial government to take action. On 22 December the Provincial Secretary’s office wrote to Baker informing him of Order-in-Council No. 8870, which rescinded his appointment as police magistrate effective 31 December. [132] Two days later, Baker served his last recorded day on the bench when he heard three cases of theft and one of wilful damage. [133] A suitable replacement was quickly found. On 29 December Attorney General Colin H. Campbell wrote to City Council informing them that Thomas Mayne Daly, K. C., would be taking over as police magistrate on 2 January 1904. [134]

It was not lost upon interested parties that the furor over Baker’s actions and his eventual dismissal was similar to the removal of Alexander Dawson, his predecessor at James Street. The Manitoba Free Press portrayed the affair as an exercise in cynical realpolitik. It charged that the Roblin Conservatives were unhappy with the bad press “their” man on the bench was attracting, charges made plausible given the government’s refusal to comment on the matter and their reluctance to offer an official reason for Baker’s removal. [135] Citing the Dawson case, the Free Press again expressed worry that the police court magistracy in the city risked being turned into an office of political patronage (it was apparently lost on the paper that this is what it indeed was). [136] As more details surrounding the affair became known, however, it was acknowledged that other factors might have influenced events. After his dismissal was confirmed, it was reported that members of the legal profession in the city had complained of Baker’s “discourteous” manner toward them in court. [137] No doubt this was the case. When the many grievances from across the city are taken together, it is unsurprising that the Roblin administration felt compelled to exercise its authority. All levels of government took the public reputation of police court magistrates seriously, as Baker himself knew well. They had an obvious interest in appointing respected men to the job, and had a stake in their subsequent performance: public opinion mattered. If the local magistrate did not command public confidence, the entire system of governance suffered. [138]

Baker’s career did not suffer from the indignity of summary dismissal from public office. As patron of the St. Charles Country Club and the Manitoba Club, and as an active member of the Masonic Lodge and provincial synod of the Anglican Church, his life within the social world of the British-Canadian ruling class of Winnipeg continued. [139] And despite its somewhat ignoble end, his magistracy was not completely tarnished. In the weeks after his dismissal Baker received private letters of commendation from across the province expressing regret at the government’s decision. He also received public tribute from members of the police force who, though uncomfortable with some of his methods of punishment, nevertheless appreciated his constant support and frequent praise. [140] Nor did the uproar over the use of violence against children and his record of judicial ineptitude damage his legal career. Paradoxically, in the years following his exit, he became a sort of local expert on the subject of juvenile delinquency. Socialreform activists and the city press often called on him for his opinions on the subject, and his sins were ultimately forgiven when, in 1914, he was made King’s Counsel. [141]

This examination of Baker’s reign at James Street serves merely as a glimpse into the daily workings of an important early 20th-century urban institution. When compared to other police magistracies of the period, Baker’s time on the bench can appear rather trifling. Colonel George T. Denison of Toronto, for example, served for more than four decades, while Baker’s predecessor at James Street, Colonel Adam John Laing Peebles, served for close to twenty years. [142] Undoubtedly a larger, more nuanced story remains to be told; only future work on the institution and the individuals involved with it can place Baker’s magistracy in its proper legal-historical context.

However, while this account cannot claim to be representative of the police court experience in Winnipeg during the period, Baker’s tenure should not be seen merely as a dramatic episode in the city’s legal and criminal justice history. As we have seen, it coincided with a period of significant social, political, and cultural change in both Winnipeg and the Dominion. James Street and other police courts across the nation were the places where fundamental questions regarding family life, public morality, and ethnic and class relations were negotiated. In many ways Baker shared the same views on crime, public order, morality, and the law as the people brought before him, regardless of class or status. Compared to the record of other police magistrates of the period, many of his actions and decisions were not untypical. [143] However, he also brought a particular style of jurisprudence to the Winnipeg police court which was indeed cruel and unusual. Perhaps, then, it is through the experiences of the victims of this brand of justice that Baker’s career should be judged. The considerable discretionary powers reserved by police magistrates of the period meant that those on the urban margins could reasonably trust in the law to defend their interests if a sympathetic judge could be found. [144] As we have seen, some undoubtedly left Baker’s court satisfied that justice had been done, and mercy shown. Others, however—abused women, Jews, neglected children, the transient unemployed—could not expect much from Baker’s court

Notes

1. Manitoba Free Press (hereafter MFP), 28 April 1903, p. 10

2. Roy St. George Stubbs, Lawyers and Laymen in Western Canada (Toronto: Ryerson Press, 1939); Dale Gibson and Lee Gibson, Substantial Justice: Law and Lawyers in Manitoba, 1670–1970, Winnipeg: Peguis Publishers, 1972; R. C. Macleod, “Law and Order on the Western-Canadian Frontier,” in John McLaren, Hamar Foster, and Chet Orloff, eds. Law for the Elephant, Law for the Beaver: Essays in the Legal History of the North American West (Regina: Canadian Plains Research Center, 1992); Dale Gibson, “Company Justice: Origins of Legal Institutions in Pre-Confederation Manitoba,” Manitoba Law Journal 23 (1996): 247-292; Russell Smandych and Karina Sacca, “The Development of Criminal Law Courts in Pre-1870 Manitoba,” Manitoba Law Journal 24 (1996): 201-257; H. Robert Baker, “Creating Order in the Wilderness: Transplanting the English Law to Rupert’s Land, 1835-1851,” Law and History Review 17, no. 2 (1999): 209-246; Dale Brawn, The Court of Queen’s Bench of Manitoba, 1870-1950: A Biographical History (Toronto: Osgoode Society/University of Toronto Press, 2006)

3. Notable examples include, but are not restricted to, Gene Howard Homel, “Denison’s Law: Criminal Justice and the Police Court in Toronto, 1877-1921,” Ontario History 73 (1981): 171-186; Paul Craven, “Law and Ideology: The Toronto Police Court, 1850-80,” in David H. Flaherty, ed. Essays in the History of Canadian Law, Volume II (Toronto: Osgoode Society/University of Toronto Press, 1983); Thomas Thorner and Neil Watson, “Keeper of the King’s Peace: Colonel G. E. Sanders and the Calgary Police Magistrate’s Court, 1911-1932,” Urban History Review/Revue d’histoire urbaine 12 (1984): 45-55; Amanda Glasbeek, Feminized Justice: The Toronto Women’s Court, 1913-1934 (Vancouver: UBC Press, 2009); Michael Boudreau, City of Order: Crime and Society in Halifax, 1918-35 (Vancouver: UBC Press, 2012).

4. Accounts of policing in Winnipeg, both amateur and academic, either completely overlook or examine uncritically the role of the magistrate’s court within the wider police institution. See, for example, Robert Hutchinson, A Century of Service: A History of the Winnipeg Police Force, 1874-1974 (Winnipeg: City of Winnipeg Police Force, 1974), and Jack Templeman, From Force to Service: A Pictorial History of the Winnipeg Police Department, 125th Anniversary (Calgary: Bunker to Bunker, 1998). For a more sophisticated approach that nonetheless ignores the police court, see Megan Kozminski, “Emptyhanded Constables and Notorious Offenders: Policing an Early Prairie City ‘According to Order’,” in Gerald Friesen and Esyllt Jones, eds. Prairie Metropolis: New Essays on Winnipeg Social History (Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 2009): 44-62.

5. Pioneers and Early Settlers of Manitoba (Winnipeg: Manitoba Library Association, 1971), 9; Gerald Friesen, The Canadian Prairies (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1984), 206-208.

6. Archives of Manitoba (AM), MG14 B2/1, George William Baker Fonds, George William Baker Diary (hereafter Baker Diary), p. 7; Pioneers and Early Settlers, 9. The diary included in the collection covers only the years 1881-1882. Unfortunately no personal record exists of Baker’s time on the police court bench.

7. AM, Baker Diary, p. 4. On the subject of “boosterism”, see Alan F. J. Artibise, Winnipeg: A Social History of Urban Growth, 1874-1914 (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1975), 13.

8. AM, Baker Diary, p. 5.

9. Pioneers and Early Settlers, 9.

10. John Weaver, Crimes, Constables, and Courts: Order and Transgression in a Canadian City, 1816-1970 (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1995), 69.

11. Greg Marquis, “The Contours of Canadian Urban Justice, 1870-1875,” Urban History Review/Revue d’histoire urbaine 15, No. 3 (1987): 269.

12. Gibson and Gibson, 125; Brawn, 15, n. 50

13. Ibid.

14. AM, MG14 B2/3, Baker Fonds, Scrapbook of Clippings Relating to His Term as Police Magistrate, Winnipeg, 1901–1903 (hereafter Baker Scrapbook #3), McFadden to Baker, 8 August 1901. (Baker did not actually hold court, however, until the beginning of September). Note: much of the material used in the writing of this essay was taken from the large scrapbook presumably compiled by Baker and deposited as part of the Baker Fonds in the Archives of Manitoba. Newspaper clippings that could not be cross-referenced to their actual source are cited as the page number where they appear in the scrapbook.

15. City of Winnipeg Archives and Records Control (hereafter CWARC), Council Communications, no. 6457, 28 August 1901; Manitoba Gazette No. 32, Vol. XXX, 10 August 1901.

16. MFP, 2 August 1901.

17. MFP, 31 October 1901

18. Winnipeg Daily Tribune (hereafter WDT), 5 August 1901.

19. On the subject of the police court as urban theatre, see Craven, “Law and Ideology”, and Glasbeek, Feminized Justice, 1.

20. MFP, 4 September 1901.

21. Ibid.; Alan F. J. Artibise, Winnipeg: An Illustrated History (Toronto: James Lorimer & Co., 1977), 31.

22. WDT, 27 September 1901.

23. Weaver, 72-3.

24. MFP, 11 October 1901.

25. Thorner and Watson, “Keeper of the King’s Peace”: 45.

26. Evening Telegram (hereafter ET), 2 June 1902; Morning Telegram (hereafter MT), 11 February 1902.

27. ET, 2 June 1902.

28. Craven, “Law and Ideology: The Toronto Police Court, 1850-80.”

29. MFP, 16 December 1901.

30. ET, 1 March 1902.

31. AM, G4129, Winnipeg Police Court Record Book #10, 17 October 1902, p. 262.

32. In November 1901, for example, of the 216 cases heard at the James Street Court, 121 were for public drunkenness. MT, 2 December 1901; WDT, 8 August 1902; MFP, 9 December 1901; AM, Baker Scrapbook #3, p. 21.

33. MT, 18 October 1901.

34. Ibid.

35. MFP, 4 March 1903; ET, 7 January 1902.

36. Evening News Bulletin (hereafter ENB), 27 November 1901.

37. ET, 31 December 1901.

38. ENB, 30 November 1901.

39. MFP, 27 December 1901.

40. MFP, 25 December 1901.

41. Ibid. (my italics).

42. MT, 15 February, 1902.

43. MT, 20 February 1902.

44. ET, 30 December 1901.

45. See, for example, WDT, 13 February 1902.

46. WDT, 20 January 1902.

47. John McLaren, “Recalculating the Wages of Sin: The Social and Legal Construction of Prostitution, 1850-1920,” Manitoba Law Journal, Vo. 23, Nos. 1&2 (1995): 527.

48. WDT, 29 November 1902; Baker Scrapbook #3, p. 39, 69.

49. The best known police magistrate of the period, Toronto’s George Denison, despite his reputation as a stern disciplinarian was not known to talk down to or morally condemn those brought before him, and could reasonably claim to have practised “a tolerant if paternal toryism.” Gene Howard Homel, “Denison’s Law”: 178.

50. AM, Baker Scrapbook #3, p. 69; ET, 5 August 1902.

51. AM, Baker Scrapbook #3, p. 52, 68.

52. Population statistics for the period, as well as the obligatory discussion of their (perhaps exaggerated) unreliability, can be found in Artibise, Winnipeg, pp. 129-131, 250.

53. See Homel, “Denison’s Law”; Thorner and Watson, “Keeper of the King’s Peace.”

54. ET, 5 August 1902.

55. Ibid.

56. WT, 5 August 1903.

57. MFP, 3 December 1901.

58. CWARC, Council Communications, no. 6836, 7 January 1903.

59. ET, 26 December 1902.

60. WDT, 25 November 1901.

61. MT, 2 December 1901.

62. WDT, 29 November 1901; WDT, 6 December 1901; MFP, 30 November 1901.

63. MFP, 30 November 1901; WT, 29 & 30 December, 1901.

64. AM, Baker Scrapbook #3, pp. 4, 22.

65. Mariana Valverde, The Age of Soap, Light, and Water: Moral Reform in English Canada, 1885-1925 (Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1991), 77-78.

66. As did many police departments across the Dominion, especially in the West. See McLaren, 529-530.

67. Rhonda Hinther, “The Oldest Profession in Winnipeg: The Culture of Prostitution in the Point Douglas Segregated District, 1909-1912.” Manitoba History 41 (2001): 2-13; Artibise, Winnipeg, 294.

68. MFP, 30 November 1901, p. 14.

69. Ibid.

70. MT, 2 December 1901.

71. MFP, 22 April 1902.

72. MFP, 13 August 1903.

73. Melanie Methot, “Reverend Frederic B. Du Val: Winnipeg’s Fearless Foe of Social Vices,” Manitoba History 44 (Autumn/Winter 2003): 32-41.

74. James Gray, Red Lights on the Prairies, Spectra Ed. (Saskatoon: Western Producer Prairie Books, 1986), 35-42.

75. WDT, 13 November 1903; MFP, 17 November 1903.

76. Ibid.; MFP, 19 November 1903.

77. Valverde, 88; McLaren, 534

78. See W. L. Morton, Manitoba: A History, 2nd Edition (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1967), 283, 310-313; Artibise, Winnipeg: A Social History, 202-206.

79. Tamara Myers, Caught: Montreal’s Modern Girls and the Law, 1869-1945 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2006), 5.

80. WT, 27 November 1901.

81. ENB, 16 December 1901.

82. AM, Baker Scrapbook #3, p. 2

83. MFP, 27 December 1901.

84. ENB, 6 October 1902.

85. Ibid.

86. MFP, 16 December 1901.

87. ENB, 16 December 1901.

88. MFP, 16 December 1901.

89. WDT, 17 June 1902.

90. Ibid.

91. ET, 20 September 1902.

92. MFP, 2 & 5 June 1902.

93. WDT, 10 October 1901.

94. ET, 5 April 1902

95. Ibid.

96. Carolyn Strange, “The Undercurrents of Penal Culture: Punishment of the Body in Mid-Twentieth-Century Canada,” Law and History Review, Vol. 19, No. 2 (Summer, 2001): 350; Paul Axelrod, “No Longer a ‘Last Resort’: The End of Corporal Punishment in the Schools of Toronto,” Canadian Historical Review, Vol. 91, No. 2 (June 2010): 264-267.

97. Clive Emsley, Hard Men: The English and Violence since 1750 (London: Continuum Publishing, 2005), 165.

98. WDT, 5 April 1902.

99. WDT, 6 October 1902.

100. Ibid.; MT, 15 April 1902; WDT, 18 October 1902.

101. MFP, 5 & 6 August 1902.

102. Ibid.

103. Douglas Hay, “Property, Authority, and the Criminal Law,” in D. Hay et al., eds. Albion’s Fatal Tree: Crime and Society in Eighteenth-Century England (New York: Pantheon Books, 1975), 25.

104. MFP, 12 July 1902

105. MFP, 29 October 1901.

106. MFP, 5 July 1902.

107. AM, MG14 B2/3, Baker to A. Power, 8 August 1902

108. AM, MG14 B2/3, Clerk of the Court to W. James, 10 July 1902.

109. AM, MG14 B2/3, J. H. Ashdown to G. W. Baker, 7 July 1902.

110. Ibid.

111. AM, Baker Scrapbook #3, p. 77

112. Ibid.

113. MFP, 5 July 1902.

114. On the myriad problems posed by crime statistics, see Clive Coleman and Jenny Moynihan, eds. Understanding Crime Data: Haunted by the Dark Figure (Buckingham: Open University Press, 1996).

115. See AM, Police Court Record Book #10, March to September 1902, pp. 79-279; MFP, 1 October 1902.

116. WDT, 2 January 1904; AM, Baker Scrapbook #3, pp. 80-81.

117. WDT, 16 October 1903; MFP, 10 December 1903.

118. WDT, 16 October 1903.

119. MFP, 25 November 1903.

120. WT, 19 & 20 August 1903.

121. WDT, 19 August 1903.

122. MFP, 26 October 1901.

123. Ibid.

124. AM, Baker Scrapbook #3, p. 79.

125. Ibid. p. 42.

126. See, for example, MFP, 2 June 1903; MFP, 1 August 1902; MFP, 18 May 1903.

127. ET, 30 September 1902; MFP, 1 October 1902.

128. AM, Baker Scrapbook #3, p. 67.

129. Ibid.

130. Ibid., p. 92.

131. Ibid.

132. AM, MG14 B2/3, James Hooper to G. W. Baker, 11 December 1903.

133. AM, Winnipeg Police Court Record Book #10, p. 186.

134. CWARC, Council Communications, no. 7080, 29 December 1903.

135. MFP, 16 December 1903.

136. MFP, 12 December 1903.

137. MFP, 25 December 1903.

138. Jonathan Swainger, “‛Dime Novel Toughs’: Legal Culture and Criminal Law in Red Deer, Alberta, 1907-1920,” Criminal Justice History 14 (1993): 119.

139. See AM, MG14 B2/4, Baker Fonds, Scrapbook #4; Pioneers and Early Settlers, 9.

140. Ibid.; MFP, 5 July 1902; WDT, 4 August 1903; Baker Scrapbook, p. 99.

141. AM, MG14 B2/2, Baker Fonds, Scrapbook #2.

142. For Denison, see Homel, “Denison’s Law”; For Peebles, see Pioneers and Early Settlers, 182-183.

143. See Homel, “Denison’s Law”; Craven, “Law and Ideology”; Thorner & Watson, “Keeper of the King’s Peace.”

144. Jennifer Davis, “A Poor Man’s System of Justice: The London Police Courts in the Nineteenth Century.” Historical Journal 71 (1984): 309-335.

We thank Clara Bachmann for assistance in preparing the online version of this article.

Page revised: 22 March 2020

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