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- British Columbia. Dept. of the Attorney-General
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The Attorney-General’s Department was established in 1871 by authority of the Constitution Act of 1871 (SBC 1871, c. 147). Prior to that, from 1863 to 1866, the origins of the ministry were in the offices of the Attorney-General for the Colony of Vancouver Island and for the Colony of British Columbia. In 1866, the colonies united to form one colony, with one Attorney-General, who remained in place until British Columbia became a province of the Dominion of Canada in 1871. The Attorney-General was the official legal advisor of the Lieutenant-Governor and of the Executive Council. He was responsible for the settlement and approval of all documents issued under the public seal of the province and for the supervision of magistrates, police, and the constabulary.
In 1899, the department was reconstituted by the Attorney-General’s Act (SBC 1899, c. 5), which expanded the duties and powers of the Attorney-General to include: management and direction of correctional institutions, the British Columbia Police, and the administration of public affairs; provision of legislative and legal advice to the representative of the Crown and the heads of government departments; administration of justice within the Province; and regulation of all litigation for and against the Crown and public departments within the jurisdiction of the Legislature.
At various times several different agencies have been under the direction of the Attorney-General, such as the Industrial Schools for Boys and for Girls, Factories Inspection Branch, Electrical Energy Inspection Branch, Mothers’ Pension Board, Municipal Branch, Provincial Board of Health, Prohibition Commission, Public Utilities Commission, and Superintendent of Neglected Children. In most instances these agencies have later been placed under the management of other departments, absorbed into new organizations, or abolished altogether.
In 1976, the Dept. of the Attorney-General was renamed the Ministry of the Attorney General (OIC 3199/76).
Scope and content
This series contains selected correspondence inward received by the Attorney General from 1883 to 1888, and was originally part of an inward correspondence series created by the Attorney General’s Department. The bulk of the surviving inward correspondence from 1872 to 1937 may be found in GR-0429. Records in this series include correspondence inward, notes regarding cases and assize calendars.
The Attorney General’s Department used several numbering and filing systems during this time period; from 1872 to 1911 letters were assigned a number as they were received, and then filed in numerical order by year. There is no contemporary index for letters inward prior to 1911. Although the items of correspondence from 1872 to 1911 were assigned numbers sequentially, the original order was not always maintained while the records were in the Attorney-General’s Department. This means that the items are no longer in strict numerical order within a year, and items relating to a single topic may sometimes be found together, regardless of the date when they were first received.
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Most Attorney General correspondence inward from 1872 to 1937 is located in GR-0429.
Most of the inquests from this period were extracted and may now be found in GR-1327. Similarly, depositions and preliminary trial transcripts were also separated and may be found in GR-0419.
Unfortunately, almost all of the Department’s letterbooks for 1872-1917 were destroyed by fire in 1939. Some correspondence was also destroyed by flooding. As a result it is not possible to locate departmental replies (correspondence outward) to most of the correspondence in GR-0996.