Raw Life: Cameos of 1890s Justice from a Magistrate's Bench Book

April 8, 2021
Raw Life: Cameos of 1890s Justice from a Magistrate's Bench Book

Justices of the peace, constables, and game wardens from thelate 19th century are brought to vivid life interacting with avariety of accused citizens.Rare views of human lives in turmoil are revealed in severalhundred trials conducted in 1890s Muskoka by Magistrate James Boyerof Bracebridge. The charges and evidence show how raw life reallywas in Canada’s frontier towns, with cases ranging from nostalgicand humorous to pitiable and deeply disturbing.While dispensing speedy justice, Boyer, who was also town clerkand editor of the Northern Advocate, the first newspaperin Ontario’s northern districts, kept a careful record in hishandwritten "bench book" of all these cases. That bench book,recently found by his great-grandson, lawyer J. Patrick Boyer,provides the raw material for Raw Life.This first-time publication of the these cases demonstrates how,in Canadian society, some things haven’t changed much over theyears – from early road rage to the plight of abused women, fromenvironmental contamination to punitive treatment of the poor.