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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).
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The New Haven Provincial Boys’ Training Home was established in 1938-1939, when the Province purchased land at 4150 SE Marine Drive, Burnaby (Lot 164, ground 1 New Westminster District). The site had originally been the former McGregor estate before it was used as a Home for the Friendless, but a 1937 abuse scandal resulted in that institution’s closure.
New Haven was groundbreaking in its philosophy, and led the nation in the treatment of youth who would have otherwise been sent to prison. The Home was grounded in the philosophies of the ‘borstal’ movement and the institution was patterned after England’s Lowdham Grange. At the time, there were no legislative frameworks in place for the establishment of a borstal unit, although this was soon to change. Permission was granted through an order-in-council to transfer so-called “star class” prisoners from Oakalla Prison Farm to New Haven, which was originally viewed as the “training school branch” of Oakalla. Prisoners were to be males between the ages of 16 and 23, and had committed a variety of crimes ranging from theft, forgery, breaking and entering, auto theft, and robbery with violence. In 1949, the New Haven Act was created to allow for direct committals to New Haven for an indefinite period of time, thereby bypassing the need for select youth to be incarcerated in Oakalla. The institution was to be used for “custody and detention, with a view to [the] education, training, and reclamation, of such offenders as are lawfully committed thereto.”
Between 1942 and 1947, the Home was closed as a result of the war effort, and the grounds were used as the Provincial Home for the Deaf and Blind. The institution reopened on November 24, 1947 with Mr. S. Rocksborough-Smith as director. The institution’s administration included a Screening Board to select suitable candidates, and a three-man Parole Board. Under the 1949 New Haven Act, responsibility for the administration of the institution lay with the Attorney-General. The Home was designed to be limited to a maximum of 40 youth at any time.
Upon arrival at the Home, youth would spend a month working on cleaning duties, during which time they were examined and assessed by psychologists, doctors and other staff. These assessments determined which work group each inmate would ultimately be assigned to. There were four such groups – woodworking, metalworking, cooking/baking, and farming. Inmates worked 8 hour days, for which they were paid. Work was viewed as character training. During the evenings, they were enrolled in educational courses through the Correspondence Division of the Department of Education. Such courses could be as basic as elementary math or as varied as Spanish, French, or radio operating. Evenings were also set aside for hobbies and physical education, and many of the boys were active in sports groups. In 1948, the Home established short camping trips to Gambier Island’s Camp Artaban.
Following their release, responsibility for the care of the former residents fell to the British Columbia Borstal Association (founded in 1948), who had a headquarters in Vancouver and 32 branch offices across the province. The Association had the power to recommend re-committal if it was deemed necessary.
The institution became known as the New Haven Correctional Centre. It was closed in 2001.
Scope and content
The series consists of correspondence, reports, and various administrative and operational records created between 1937 and 1956 by the New Haven Provincial Boys’ Training Home.
The series consists of correspondence regarding the establishment of the Home, and includes several letters related to a “name-the-institution” contest. The series consists of reports to the New Haven Advisory Board, as well as records defining admission criteria, vocational and academic training programs, and proposed recreational activities. The records provide details of correspondence courses and educational plans, the treatment of inmates, details of the buildings and grounds, and the logistics of establishing the school and hiring staff. The series also consists of warrants of commitment from 1937 to 1940.
The series is covered by ORCS 59840-20 of the Corrections Branch ORC (schedule 891849).
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- New Haven Provincial Boys' Training Home (Subject)