Judicial Prejudice Against the Metis: Justice Edmund Burke Wood

Chief Justice Wood’s prejudice against the Metis and his arbitrary ways, which had increased steadily through the years, came to be intolerable for the general population and other lawyers. As a result, on March 4th, 1881, the Honourable Joseph Royal presented a petition to the House of Commons setting forth various charges against Justice Wood and praying that the House take the petition into its favourable consideration and deal with it in conformity with the interests of the pure administration of justice. This petition was signed by H. J. Clarke QC, William Boyle, F. T. Bradley, and J. E. Cooper. It contained the following series of charges: 1. That by changing the dates on certain documents and records, the Chief Justice procured the illegal outlawing of Louis Riel. 2. That he prepared a list of “Half-Breeds” who were enemies of Ambroise Lepine to serve on the jury which tried him for the murder of Thomas Scott. 3. That as a judge, he took an active part in politics, continually introducing into his charges to the grand jury contentious local and Dominion political issues. 4. That in his charge to the grand jury at the spring assizes of 1880 he declared that he had no confidence in the oath of any French native in the Province. 5. That he was in the constant habit of using the most abusive language towards both suitors and members of the bar in open court, at times displaying such uncontrollable temper and bursts of passion while on the bench as to disgust all parties who were so unfortunate as to be compelled to submit to his abuse. 6. That he made a habit of taking the un-sworn statements of persons on the streets or at his home in preference to the sworn testimony of witnesses in court. 7. That he degraded the administration of justice by gross exhibitions of intemperance while travelling on circuit.
References: Canada Sessional Papers, No. 106, 1882, 1-5. Roy St. George Stubbs, “Hon. Edmund Burke Wood,” Manitoba Historical Society Transactions, Series 3, 1956-57.

Compiled by Lawrence Barkwell Coordinator of Metis Heritage and History Research Louis Riel Institute

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful