Laws of the Provisional Government of Assiniboia, passed by the Legislative Assembly and President

The law code developed by the Legislative Assembly of Assiniboia, like the assembly itself, marked a ‘first’ in the North-West: local laws were determined by a democratically elected local legislature, the members of which were predominantly Aboriginal. But, as with the assembly, very soon after the creation of Manitoba, the law code was ignored by the Canadian government and was subsequently ‘forgotten’ in Canadian historiography.

Entering confederation as a province implied that the laws in force at the time of union would continue afterwards.[1] The Legislative Assembly formally indicated its intent to address the issue during the 8th day of its 1st session, 24 March 1870. Hon. Thomas Bunn introduced “a bill providing for the better administration of public justice.”[2] It would be the the second Bill passed by Legislative Assembly of Assiniboia, and called for  reorganization of the judicial districts and laws. The old laws of the Hudson’s Bay Company Governor and Council of Assiniboia were not immediately cancelled. The Bill ensured that, until the task of devising new laws was completed, all previous laws would remain in force.[3]

law committees2

Members of the Law Committee(s). Source: Norma Hall, with Clifford P. Hall, and Erin Verrier, “Table 4: Committee on the Constitution/ Law Committees,” A History of the Legislative Assembly of Assiniboia/le Consiel du Gouvernement Provisoire (Winnipeg:  Manitoba, Department of Aboriginal and Northern Affairs, 2010), 11.

The law code eventually passed by the Provisional Government of Assiniboia was first developed by the Law Committee appointed to codify (write) local laws, which then presented it to the Legislative Assembly. Hon. William Bernard O’Donoghue was adamant that the laws formulated by the Law Committee “were not the old laws a little altered. The old laws were taken as a guide, but none of them were adopted without undergoing many alterations.”[4]

The principal change was in simplifying the wording of the articles (in some instances to become more general in scope; in other instances to become more specific). Some articles had quantitative values changed (for example distances, numbers of persons, and monetary amounts). Some articles had subsections removed, or were dropped entirely (among those dropped were articles that named individuals appointed to positions and their salaries — which points were handled otherwise by the Provisional Government than in the law code). Some entirely new articles were added (for example regarding the feeding of prisoners and the care of orphans).

The new laws were debated in the Assembly and in some cases reformulated before being passed. Final wording was decided upon by the “Publication Committee,” and apparently was edited to some extent by the Executive Council.[5]

The New Nation printed the laws three times: twice on 6 May 1870 (the repeated text apparently meant to be a removable, stand alone document); and once on 30 May 1870.[6]

After Manitoba became a province, Canada ignored the law code of the Legislative Assembly of Assiniboia. Under the new Lieutenant-governor, Adams G. Archibald, the statutes of the Legislative Assembly (along with its existence), were largely ignored. Instead, the system of customs and privileges that was considered in order to carry them forward, reformulate, or cancel them, was that of the HBC Council of Assiniboia.[7]


Laws of Assiniboia,

Passed By

The President and Legislative Assembly of Assiniboia,


The 7th Day of May, 1870.

Second Session of the Legislature

(These laws come into operation on the 20th day of May, 1870; until which time the laws under which the country has hitherto been governed remain in full force. On and after the 20th day of May, 1870, all the old laws are repealed.)

General Provisions.

I. All Fines and forfeitures when not otherwise appropriated shall go to the Public Fund.

II. Every Enactment shall be interpreted without regard to the distinction of Gender or Number.

III. If any person encourage, in any way, any violation of any local enactment, he shall be held to be as guilty as the principal offender.

IV. That unless special regulation provide to the contrary, every wrong has its remedy under the general law of the country.

V. That the law of England shall be the law of the land in relation to crimes and misdemeanors, and generally as to all civil rights, except wherein modified by the local law.

Administration of Justice.

I. That the Supreme Court of Assiniboia shall be held four times a year, viz:— On the third Tuesday of February, of May, of August, and of November.

For the present year only the next sitting of the Supreme Court will be held on the second Tuesday in June, 1870.

II. District Courts shall be held at such times and places as follows, viz.:

District of

1. Manitobah. To include all the settlements in the immediate vicinity of Manitobah Lake.

2. Portage La Prairie. From the extreme end of the settlement, along the Assiniboine River, down to the place at which the Long Lake touches the public road; on both sides of the river.

3. White-Horse Plain. To extend from where the Long Lake touches the public road to the Sturgeon Creek; on both sides of the river.

4. Fort Garry. To extend from Sturgeon Creek on the Assiniboine River, and from Pembina down to St. Paul’s Church on the Red River, and on both sides of each river. This district to include also Point de Chene.

5. St. Andrews. To extend from St. Paul’s Church to any of the settlements on or around Winnipeg Lake, and on both sides of the river.

District Courts, shall be held as follows:

1. Portage La Prairie on the first Tuesday in each month.

2. White-horse Plain on the second Tuesday in each month.

3. Fort Garry on the fourth Tuesday in each month.

4. St. Andrews on the third Tuesday in each month.

5. Manitobah on fourth Tuesday respectively — March, September, and December, and the first Tuesday in June.

III.   [ 1.] The Chairman of a District Court shall be a Justice of the Peace.

2. All the magistrates of a Judicial District shall be entitled to sit at any court held for that district.

3. The Chairman and two District Magistrates shall form a Quorum, the chairman having a vote only when the other Magistrates cannot come to a decision.

IV. The District Court shall take cognizance —

1. Of all actions of debt for sums of not more than Ten Pounds sterling.

2. Of all offences which do not involve any other penalty than a fine of not more than Two Pounds sterling.

3. Of all cases arising from breach of the Liquor laws.

V. The losing party at a District Court may appeal to the Supreme Court, provided —

1. That notice of appeal be given at the same session of the Court; and provided —

2. That the appellant pay down the usual deposit required of all parties entering cases for the Supreme Court; also, the amount of the judgement rendered against him, or give satisfactory security for the same.

VI. In cases coming under the cognizance of the District Courts, and where plaintiff and defendant reside in different districts, the case shall tried in the district in which the defendant resides; and if the plaintiff gain the case, he shall receive, in addition to the ordinary and necessary costs of the Court, such amount for loss of time and expenses of travelling, as the Court may decide upon.

VII.   [1.] That any District Magistrate shall have the right to issue a summons for his own district.

2. He shall also have the right to issue a summons for any other district, but such summons shall have no legal force, unless countersigned by a Magistrate of the district where such summons is to take effect.

VIII. If in any suit originally brought before the General Court, the Bench, after verdict is given against the defendant, shall unanimously decide that such suit ought to have gone before a District Court, the plaintiff in that case shall receive costs only as in such District Court.

IX. In any Court, either party to a civil action may be made the other’s witness.

X. For every writ in civil action in the Supreme Court, there shall be payable to the Magistrate issuing the same, three shillings and six pence stg. [sic: sterling], and for every writ issued by any of the District Magistrates, two shillings and six pence stg., of which charges the sum of one shilling shall be paid to the Constable serving the writ, the balance being retained by the Magistrate. For such shilling the Constable shall be bound to serve any writ within five miles of his own residence, but for any distance he may be required to travel beyond that he shall be entitled to mileage at the rate of two pence a mile. These fees shall be payable to the Magistrate before issuing the writ, and every Constable receiving a writ shall be responsible for the service thereof.

XI. In criminal cases jurors and witnesses shall be paid five shillings a day out of the Public Funds, and in civil cases, five shillings per day for each case in which they serve; payable by plaintiff or defendant according to the decision of the Court.

XII. That on every case entered for the Supreme Court the plaintiff shall deposit the sum of one pound stg., which if the case come on to trial, shall go towards the payment of the jury. But should the case not come to trial, the said deposit shall be forfeited if the case has not been withdrawn at least twelve full days previous to the day on which the Court sits.

XIII. Any person imprisoned on account of any crime or misdemeanor, shall receive daily at the public expense, one pound of flour, one pound of pemmican, and water at discretion; and no person shall be imprisoned at the suit of any creditor, unless said creditor pay seven shillings weekly in advance for the board of said prisoner.

XIV. Summonses issued to defendants, coming before the Supreme Court, must be served at least 15 days before the first day of the session of said Court, and summonses to defendants in suits coming before any District Court must be served at least 8 days before the session of said Court.

XV. In the Supreme Court trial shall be by jury, except where both parties desire it otherwise.

XVI. It shall be lawful for the Legislative Assembly, upon petition from any present resident of the country, who is recommended by at least three members of the Assembly, to issue a license to said petitioner to practise law in any of the Courts of the country, upon payment of Two Pounds stg. per annum in advance for every year subsequent to the year of admission; provided always that the number of such authorized practitioners of law, does not exceed Ten; provided, also, that when a practitioner fails to pay his annual fee, he ceases, ipso facto, to have the right to practice.

XVII. When a judgment debt is not paid at the time appointed by the Court, the Sheriff shall be obliged, at the request of the creditor, and on presentation of the record of such judgement, signed by the Clerk of the Court, to proceed at once to seize the goods and chattels, or other property of said debtor, and on giving 14 days public notice, to sell the same by public auction, so far as necessary to satisfy the debt, and all necessary expenses connected with such sale; provided always that said debtor be not deprived of necessary household furniture or utensils, or of such animals or implements as he must necessarily have to carry on his usual avocation. Failing such goods, chattels or other property available for Sheriff’s sale, the debtor may be imprisoned on the conditions specified in local law, No. 13.

XVIII. That any creditor to the extent of not less than Two Pounds stg., on making oath before a Justice of the Peace, to the correctness of the debt, and the fact of his belief in his debtor’s intention to proceed to a foreign country or to a remote part of this country, shall have the right to compel the said debtor to give security for the amount of the debt, or failing that, to apprehend and detain his person.

XIX. If in the case contemplated by the preceding article, it appears after trial that the complainant had no ground of action, he shall be liable in damages to the defendant summarily, at the discretion of the Court.

XX. In the case of a debtor who has left those parts of this country over which our Courts have jurisdiction, for a period of one year, and has left property within said jurisdiction, such property, or as much of the same as will satisfy the claims of the creditor, shall, at the discretion of any two Justices of the Peace, if the creditor establish his claim to the satisfaction of said Justices, be liable to be attached, and assigned to some third party in trust, and if the debtor fail to appear before the competent Court, after summons by proclamation inserted three times in a local newspaper, and also posted three successive Sundays, in some conspicuous place, near all the churches within the district in which the property is situated, and also in the town of Winnipeg, said Court shall proceed to execute judgment in the premises; provided, always, that no such proceedings shall be allowable with reference to the property of any such absent person who had publicly notified his intention of departure for fifteen days previous to the date of the same.

XXI. Summonses for the General Court, and warrants, shall be issuable only by Justices of the Peace, and such writs shall have effect in any part of the country over which the General Court exercises jurisdiction.

XXII. If any dispute regarding debt not over the sum of Three Pounds stg. or damages not over One Pound stg., any District Magistrate or Justice of the Peace shall have power to decide summarily, if both parties are agreeable, and from such decision there shall be no appeal. In such cases the Magistrate or Justice of the Peace shall be entitled to a fee of Five shillings from the losing party.

XXIII. That no action for the recovery of debt be brought before the August term of the Supreme Court. Those who have not been in the Settlement since the first day of November 1869, and those who may be preparing to leave the Settlement without satisfying their creditors as provided for in the 17th article under the heading “Administration of Justice,” do not come under this law.

XXIV. Whenever any Judicial Officer of any Court is pecuniarily interested in the result of any suit before such Court, he shall, if requested by one of the parties to the suit, vacate his seat and take no part in the case in his capacity as member of the Bench.

XXV. Whenever the Sheriff is pecuniarily interested in the result of any suit in the Supreme Court, a special jury shall, at the request of the party opposed to the Sheriff, be summoned for such suit by the Coroner, and whenever judgment is given against the Sheriff, either in the Supreme Court or in any District Court, and execution becomes necessary, it shall be the right and duty of the Coroner or of any Justice of the Peace at the request of the plaintiff, to execute the judgment of the Court, and in doing so, to call in the assistance of any Constables or other persons necessary for the purpose.

XXVI. Any person who incurs debt or commits any crime or offence in parts of the country beyond the jurisdiction of our Courts, shall be liable to prosecution whenever found within the limits of such jurisdiction.

XXVII. Every Justice of the Peace, Magistrate, Constable, or other public officer whatsoever, must be a British subject, who has resided at least three years in this country; and who is a householder or landowner.

XXVIII. A summons shall be considered as served, if left on any day, except Sunday or a legal holiday, with the defendant; or if (being within some judicial district) it be left at his domicile or place of business, with his wife or with any other adult member of his family, or any person in his employ, above the age of 15 years.

XXIX. The Supreme Court shall be composed of a presiding Judge, and three or more Justices of the Peace.

XXX. The Supreme Court shall take cognizance of all crimes, offences, and causes of action whatsoever, not expressly assigned to the District Courts, and its jurisdiction shall extend to all those parts of the country.

XXXI. Any barrister, advocate, attorney, or solicitor, qualified to practice law in the United Kingdom; or in any British colony, shall be entitled to practice in the courts of this country, on paying a licence [sic] of ten pounds per annum in advance.

XXXII. In all cases coming before any court, or in cases of summary trial coming before any Justice of the Peace or District Magistrate, a record of the proceedings shall be kept, specifying the names of the plaintiff and defendant, the date and nature of the suit, the evidence in the case, and the decision.

Customs Duties.

I. All goods imported into the country from any part of the world, save such as may be specially excepted, shall be subject to 4 per cent ad valorem duty, the goods to be estimated at the price current of the original place of export.

II. The following shall be admitted free from customs duty:

1. All bar-iron and steel.

2. All books, publications and stationery goods.

3. All scientific instruments.

4. All agricultural implements.

5. All baggage, apparel and utensils that have been or are in present use of the owner.

6. All seeds, roots, or plants.

7. All goods passing through the country in bond.

8. All cases, boxes, barrels, bottles, or covering which contain goods or fluids of any description.

9. All monumental tablets or tombstones.

10. All grindstones and stoves.

11. All goods gratuitously given and originally intended for the benefit of the Indian missions in this country; also, all wines imported for church service.

12. All animals imported for the improvement of the breed of stock.

13. All mill and factory machinery.

III. There shall be three Collectors of Customs, residing severally at Pembina, Portage la Prairie, and at or near Fort Garry, whose residences shall be houses of clearance.

IV. A Collector of Customs shall have power to administer oaths, to search for and seize contraband goods, and to prosecute defaulters. He shall have power to call all Constables and all loyal subjects of Her Britannic Majesty to his aid, and all persons not Constables when called upon, shall be paid by the Collector at the public expense, ten shillings per diem. A Collector of Customs shall also have power to exact and receive payment of customs duty, and to give receipts in discharge of the same.

V. The Collector of Customs shall twice in every month pay into the hands of the Treasurer who is ex officio Receiver-General, all revenues received by them, together with a list of the persons paying and the value of the goods on which the duty has been paid; and the Collectors of Customs at Pembina and Portage la Prairie shall once every fourteen days, transmit to the Collector at or near Fort Garry, a list of all clearances made by them.

VI. Each Collector shall in addition to his salary, be entitled to one fifth part of the proceeds of all lawful seizures made or caused to be made by him.

VII. All dutiable goods brought into this country, except such as may be imported by way of Hudson’s Bay, shall be liable to detention by the Collector of Customs at the first house of clearance, unless such Collector be furnished by the owner or consignee, or agent of either, on or before the arrival of such goods into the country with a duly attested invoice or manifest, showing the name of the consignee, and the quantity, and prime cost value of the said goods [8].

VIII. The Collector may verify the accuracy of any invoice presented to him, by an oath administered to the party, or by examination of the goods; opening packages if necessary. On being therewith satisfied he shall exact payment of the duty, or at his discretion accept a bond for the amount, payable to any Collector of Customs within a period of one month, which bond may be sued for, and recovered the same as any other Contract debt.

IX. Each Collector of Customs on passing any goods at his clearing house shall provide the person in charge of such goods with a clearance certificate.

X. In any case where the want of an invoice is, on the oath of the owner or consignee of the goods, or agent of either of them, declared to be unavoidable, the Collector at the first clearing house may either detain the goods, or forward the same in charge of some competent person or persons, to either of the other clearing houses, where the said goods shall be detained until payment of the duty thereon, or security obtained.

XI. All goods liable for duty except such as may be imported by way of Hudson’s Bay, shall be seized as contraband unless protected by a certificate from the first custom house.

XII. The owner or consignee of all dutiable goods imported by way of Hudson’s Bay, shall report the quantity and prime cost of such goods to a Collector of Customs in Red River Settlement within three months after the arrival of said goods in this country, and failing to do so the importer, owner or consignee of said goods, shall be liable to a penalty of not more than four thousand pounds sterling.

XIII. All goods seized as contraband shall after public notice, be sold by auction for the benefit of the revenue, saving expenses, and the rights of Collectors.

XIV. A duty of two shillings a gallon shall be imposed on all wines and spirituous liquors imported into the country.


I. Constables not less than sixteen in number, shall be appointed in the following districts:

1. In Manitoba, 1.

2. “ Portage la Prairie, 2.

3. “ White Horse Plains, 3.

4. “ Fort Garry, 7; (two of whom shall be on service specially in the town of Winnipeg).

5. In St. Andrews, 3.

And every Constable shall have the power to demand the aid of any British subject to repress any disturbance of the public peace or to execute any order of Court or of any Judicial officer.

II. The following shall be the form of oath administered to every constable:

“I swear before God, that I shall, till lawfully discharged from my office of Constable for Assiniboia, be always ready at all hazards to serve and execute all legal writs, and to maintain the peace and security of the country against all enemies and disturbers of such peace and security; and that I shall obey all laws, and all lawful authorities, within, and for, said country of Assiniboia — so help me God.”

III. For any neglect of duty, any Constable may be suspended by any Magistrate, or may be discharged by the Supreme Court.

Intestate Estates.

I. When any person has died intestate, no person shall intermeddle with the property till he has received letters of administration from the Supreme Court of Assiniboia.

II. Letters of administration shall be granted to any one, approved by the Supreme Court, who may apply for the same, on such applicant satisfying the Court that the person whose estate he seeks to administer has died intestate, and giving satisfactory security to double the amount of the value of the estate, as appraised by two persons nominated by two Justices of the Peace, and after public notice is given three times in all local newspapers, and also posted at the doors of all the churches in the parish or parishes in which the property is situated. For such letters of administration the applicant shall pay to the Clerk of the Court the sum of Seven Shillings and Six pence.

III. That in all cases where the head or heads of a family die, the Supreme Court shall be, ex officio, guardian of the minors of the family of such deceased, until some authorized guardian be appointed.


I. The General Post Office shall be in the town of Winnipeg.

II. The mails shall be carried between Winnipeg and Pembina, at the public expense, so as to connect with the United States mail.

III. The charge for postage between Winnipeg and Pembina shall be as follows:

1. Letters, under half ounce, one penny, and a penny for each additional half ounce.

2. Magazines or Reviews, two pence.

3. Newspapers, one halfpenny, except such as proceed directly from offices of publication, and those which come in as exchanges, on which there shall be no charge.

4. Books, half pound and under, four pence; and for every additional quarter pound, one penny.

5. All letters carried between the Post Offices in the country shall bear a charge of one penny each.

All local Newspapers to regular subscribers coming from offices of publication, shall be carried free between the Post Offices in the country.

IV. Letters that have remained in a Post Office one month uncalled for, shall be returned to the General Post Office, and advertised three times in a local Newspaper, and in a conspicuous place in the General Post office at Winnipeg. All letters so advertised shall bear an extra charge of three pence each.

V. Branch Post Offices shall be established at the following places: St. Andrews, Headingly, Portage La Prairie, and St. Norbert.

prairie on fire2Source: J.E. Collins, The story of Louis Riel, the rebel chief (1883), 71.



I. If any hay in the Prairie be destroyed by a running fire, the owner shall recover damages from the person who has kindled the fire, provided such hay has been protected at a distance of not less than twenty yards by a ploughed or burned ring at least twelve feet wide.

II. If, between the 1st day of May and the 1st of December, any person shall kindle a fire intended to run, he shall be fined ten pounds sterling, one half to go to the prosecutor. In default of payment the offender may be imprisoned for 3 months in the common jail; and if any person, without having obtained the presence and assistance of at least six men shall light a fire for the purpose of burning rings round hay, as allowed by the preceding law, he shall be held to have incurred the penalty attached to this law; provided that the Bench may remit the whole fine if the defendant has both kindled the fire through necessity and done all in his power to prevent it from spreading.

III. If any fire in the open air, which is not intended to run, be left burning, every person who may have kindled, or fed, or used the same shall be fined, not less than five pounds, nor more than ten pounds sterling.


I. If one or more animals be found in an enclosure where they have done damage, the said damage shall be paid for by the owner and owners of such animal or animals found within the enclosure; provided that where any such animals be known as “fence breakers,” the owner or owners of such ‘fence breakers’ shall be responsible for one half of the damage done.

[II.] If any stallion, eighteen months old or upwards, be found at large, the owner shall, upon conviction be fined Three Pounds, half the fine to go to the captor, who shall deliver such stallion at the residence of any constable.

When a captured stallion has been placed in charge of a Constable, it shall be the duty of such Constable to keep the animal or cause it to be kept for One Shilling per day, until the owner pay the fine and expenses of keep, and the Constable shall, immediately on getting the animal, if the owner be not known, advertise the same three times in every local newspaper, and on three successive Sundays at the doors of two Protestant and two Roman Catholic churches, giving in such advertisements a full description of the animal; and if the owner be not thereby discovered, said constable shall bring the case before the next District Court; and if legal capture and detention be proved, said Court shall order the sale of such animal for satisfaction of fine and expenses, any balance being paid into the hands of the Public Treasurer in trust for the owner. Should the proceeds of the sale not cover fine and expenses, said expenses shall be a first charge, and the captor’s half of the fine the next.

III. If any Ram be found at large between the thirtieth day of July and the first day of December, such Ram may be captured by any person, and placed in charge of a constable to keep, at a charge of three pence a day, until the owner pay to the captor a fine of five shillings and expenses of keep; and if the owner be unknown, the constable shall, immediately on getting the ram, advertise the same three times in every local newspaper, and on three successive Sundays at thee doors of two Protestant and two Roman Catholic churches — giving in such advertisement a complete description of the animal.

IV. If between the thirty-first March and first day of December, any pig or pigs be found at large, without a yoke, a foot and a half wide, and a foot and a half in height, and an iron ring in the nose, the owner shall not only be answerable for all damages committed by said pig or pigs, but shall also, if the animal or animals be captured, pay Three Shillings to the captor for each. Until so paid the captor shall keep such pig or pigs, and be entitled to One Shilling a day for each animal, from the owner, to be paid before the animals are removed.

V. If any person take another’s horse and use the same without the owner’s consent, he shall, on conviction, be fined Five Pounds, or be imprisoned for one month in the common jail; half of the fine to go to the informer, and in the event of the guilty party being imprisoned the informer shall be paid Two Pounds, Ten Shillings out of the public funds. If a horse so taken, shall be injured or lost, the person who took the animal shall indemnify the owner the full extent of the damages or loss.

VI. If any policeman, constable, or magistrate, on seeing any person using a horse, has reasonable grounds for suspicion that said person does not own the animal and has no permission to use the same, he may detain such person until it be shown that the horse is used of right.


I. If any person cut hay outside what is now known as the Four Mile line before the twenty-first day of July, he shall forfeit the same or the value thereof.

II. If any person cut hay on another’s ground without permission, he shall forfeit the same to the person injured, without receiving any allowance for his labor, but if he trespass in ignorance, he shall still forfeit as before, but shall receive compensation to the extent of half the value of his labor.

III. Where the people of any district cannot enjoy what is known as the “Two-Mile Hay Privilege,” and a tract of land in lieu of such be granted, special regulations shall be made for such cases.

Liquor Laws.

I. If any person supply or sell to any unsettled and uncivilized Indian[9] the means of intoxication he shall on conviction be fined as follows:—

1. Two pounds for furnishing any brewing utensils, the fine to go to the informer.

2. Three pounds for furnishing malt, the fine to go to the informer.

3. Five pounds for furnishing beer or any fermented liquor, the fine to go to the informer.

4. One hundred pounds for furnishing distilled spirits or any intoxicating drink other than fermented liquors, half the fine to go to the informer.

In every case the offender after conviction shall be imprisoned until the fine is paid. In every case where a person is found guilty of a breach of this law a second time, the fine in such cases shall be doubled.

II. In addition to the fines mentioned in the preceding article the offender shall make restitution to the Indian of what he may have received if anything, for such furnishing and when the consideration is not money, it shall for the purpose of restitution be valued at prime cost.

III. If an intoxicated Indian commit or threaten to commit any injury to person or property he shall in addition to special punishment for such conduct be imprisoned until he discloses the name of the person who furnished him the means of intoxication.

IV. If any person be found with any of the above specified means of intoxication among Indians he shall be held guilty of furnishing such means of intoxication to them. Unless he shall prove that such liquor is for his own use or for the use of such civilised persons as may be with him, or that it is in transit for any civilised person or persons. Any violation of this article may be punished in the manner set forth in article I, subsection 4.

V. No person shall sell spirits, wine or beer in any quantity under five gallons without obtaining a license as contained in the following schedule:—

“A. B., having paid ten pounds, is hereby licensed from this date to the first week-day in December 187__, inclusive, to sell spirits, wine or beer, in any quantity, under the following restrictions viz.:

1. He shall not sell to any person between the hours of 10 at night and 6 in the morning.

2. Nor to any person, at any time during Sunday, Good Friday, and Christmas Day.

3. Nor at any time to any intoxicated person.

4. Nor shall he at any time sell to any uncivilized or unsettled Indian[10], either directly to the Indian, or knowingly, on the part of the seller, indirectly to another for the Indian.

5. All manufacturing and selling shall be confined to the premises for which this license is granted.

6. The violation of any of these restrictions shall make this licence [sic] null and void.”

Any proved breach of any of the conditions of the licence shall cause the forfeiture of the same, without any right on the holder’s part to the restitution of any portion of the licence fee. And whenever the breach involves also the violation of the laws against the intoxicating of Indians, the seller, besides losing his license, shall be liable to all such penalties as he shall have incurred under the said law.

But against any judgment of any District Court ordaining such forfeiture or imposing such penalties, any aggrieved person may appeal to the next ensuing General Court, on giving security for such penalties, in cases where any are imposed, as well as further cost of the original action and also on making the usual deposit of £1 for entering the appeal. But where an appeal is made, the District Court shall still have the power of suspending the license till the appeal is disposed of.

Excepting in the case of a person making wine or beer for his own family use and not for barter or sale, any person who shall manufacture or sell any spirits, wine or beer without a license, shall on conviction before a District Court be liable to a fine of not less than twenty, and not more than thirty pounds stg. for each offence, and failing immediate payment of the fine he shall be liable to imprisonment for a period of not less than twelve, and not more than twenty weeks, provided, however, that at any time during the period of imprisonment he shall be entitled to be discharged on paying the fine.

But against any such decision before any District Court any aggrieved person may appeal as aforesaid in giving security for the fine and the cost of the original action, besides making the usual deposit of £1 for entering the appeal.

On payment of the sum of ten pounds it shall be lawful for the District Magistrates in their several Districts assembled on the first week day in December, but on no other day throughout the year, to grant retail liquor licenses according to the foregoing law, and every applicant for a license shall be bound to lodge his application with the President of the Bench of the proper district not later than the 15th day of November, specifying therein the premises for which the license is asked. And on the 1st Sunday thereafter the President shall give public written notice at all the public places of worship in the applicant’s district and also in any other district in which any of the nearest neighbors reside, and also in all local newspapers, mentioning the names of the persons applying for the licenses and specifying their premises, together with the day appointed for disposing of the applications.

But in the case of any such application where the granting of a license is objected to [by] a majority of the householders of a neighborhood of the house where a license is intended to be used, the Bench shall have no power to grant the license, and such objectors shall, at any time between the date of the public notice and the date fixed for disposing of the application, be entitled to intimate their objection, either personally or in writing, to the President of the Bench, without, however, being bound to assign any reason for their objection.

For the purposes of this regulation the word “householder,” shall mean the head of a family occupying a separate house, or if occupying only a part of a house, a tenant for not less than one year and not being the hired servant of any applicant for a license.

And the word “neighborhood” shall mean the twelve householders who, irrespective of district, are nearest to the house intended to be licensed.

In the case of any application, whatsoever for a license, whether it be objected to or not, by a majority of the neighborhood the Bench shall have full discretionary power to refuse the license whensoever, on grounds relating to the public interest, they think it would be improper to grant it.

Any person may sue an offender for manufacturing illegally, spirits, wine or fermented liquors, or selling the same without a license, and shall be entitled to half the fine actually recovered.

Any person may also sue any license holder for the breach of his license; and where there is a fine besides, a forfeiture of the license, the prosecutor shall be entitled to half the fine actually recovered.

No liquor license shall on any condition be granted to any person intending to carry on the manufacture or sale of spirits, wine or beer, in any part of what is known as the Indian Reserve.[11]

From and after the first week day in December, every wholesale dealer in spirits, wine or beer, shall pay Ten Pounds a year; and every person selling spirits, wine or beer, by wholesale without a license in the subjoined form, shall be liable to a penalty of not less than Twenty Pounds stg., and not more than Thirty Pounds stg. for each offence, to be recovered in the same way as the penalties for breach of the liquor laws generally.

By the term “Wholesale Dealers” shall be understood a seller of spirits or wine in quantities at a time of not less than five gallons each, and of beer in quantities of not less than eight gallons.

All Wholesale Licenses shall be granted the President of the Fort Garry District Court, on the first week day of December, and on no other day.

Form of Wholesale License

 “C. D. having paid £10, is hereby licensed, for one year from this date, to sell spirits and wine, in quantities of not less at a time than five gallons each, and beer, in quantities of not less at a time than eight gallons.”

On payment of the sum of £15, it shall be lawful for the District Magistrates in their several districts assembled, during the session of any District Court, to grant a license to any person to manufacture and sell by wholesale, spirits, wine or beer.


I. That all public roads remain the width they have been laid out, till other arrangements are considered necessary by the Legislature.

II. If any person cut a hole into or through the river ice, except in the case of what is known as a water hole, he shall, unless he surround the same with a fence at least four feet high, be liable to a fine of one pound sterling, and also for the damage or loss occasioned by such hole. Every water hole shall be marked at the point nearest to any public track with a pole at least six feet high.

III. A Commissioner of Public Works shall be appointed who shall be responsible for the state of the roads and bridges and for all sums of money expended on Public Works, as well as for all damages caused by neglect of his duty. And when any public work is to be executed by contract, tenders for such work shall be publicly invited, and the lowest tender shall be accepted if otherwise satisfactory; but in any case the party whose tender is accepted must have two good sureties for the due execution of the contract.


[1] See Section 129 of the British North America Act (1867). See also Darren O’Toole, ”The Red River Resistance of 1869-1870: The Machiavellian Moment of the Métis of Manitoba,” Ph.D. diss. (Ottawa: University of Ottawa, 2010), 193-194.

[2] Thomas Bunn, quoted in transcript, “Session 1, Day 8: 24 March,” this site.

[3] See Bills passed by the Assembly, this site.

[4] Hon. William Bernard O’Donoghue, quoted in Session 2, Day 3, (28 April 1870), of the Debates of the Legislative Assembly, this site. See also AM, MG3 A1-24, Red River Disturbance collection, Curtis James Bird, “Minutes of meeting of Committee to codify and arrange laws. 1870.” See also Laws of Assiniboia [microform]: passed by the governor and council of Assiniboia, on the 11th April, 1862 (1862), for the ‘old laws.’

[5] See Session 2, Day 3; and Bunn/ Coldwell, Sessional Journal, 20–22; “Legislative Assembly of Assiniboia,” New Nation (6 May 1870), 8, for a reference to the Publication Committee and Hon. Dr. Bird’s observation that “the limits of the districts have been defined by the Legislature in a general way; matters of minor detail, such as it alluded to, would be dealt with by the Executive.”

[6] See: New Nation (6 May 1870), pp. 3–4,;;;;;;; See also New Nation (6 May 1870), pp., 7–8,;;;;;; And, New Nation (20 May 1870):;;;;;;;

[7] See “Report of the Select Committee on the Causes of the Difficulties in the North-West Territory in 1869–70,” 95; F.A. Milligan, “The Establishment of Manitoba’s First Provincial Government,” MHS Transactions ser. 3 (1948 – 1949 Season); K.G. Pryke, “Archibald, Adams George,” Dictionary of Canadian Biography online; and Richard S. Bowles, “Adams George Archibald, First Lieutenant-Governor of Manitoba,” MHS Transactions ser. 3, no. 25 (1968-1969 season).

[8] Prime cost might have meant the total expense of manufacturing an item, or the value of an item once depreciation is figured in. See and

[9] At Red River Settlement there was a distinction between First Nations people who were ‘settled and civilized’ and First Nations people who were ‘unsettled and uncivilized.’ See “A Brief History of the term ‘Civilized’,” this site. This law, therefore, did not apply to all ‘Indians.’

[10] See note above.

[11] The minutes of the Law Committee and debates of the Legislative Assembly of Assiniboia indicate the ‘Indian Reserve’ was considered to be distinct from the ‘Indian Settlement’/ St. Peter’s Parish (though to what extent is not clear).



Published: 21 March 2013


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