234 Menzies St


About VHS Presentations

Presentations will take place on the fourth Thursday of each month (September – May). Entry is free for VHS members and $5 for non-members. Membership forms will be available for those that wish to join the Victoria Historical Society. 

September 28, 2023

Judge Begbie: Does He Epitomize the Cruelty of Colonization?

Hamar Foster
Location: James Bay New Horizons Centre, 7:30pm

Hamar Foster, KC, is an emeritus professor at the University of Victoria. He has been researching and writing about BC’s legal history for over forty years. His most recent projects include an article in the Manitoba Law Journal contrasting Emily Carr’s impressions of the Gitanyow people of Kitwancool in the late 1920s with those of the RCMP; co-editing, with Peter Cook, John Lutz, Neil Vallance and Graham Brazier, To Share Not Surrender: Indigenous and Settler Visions of Treaty-Making in the Colonies of Vancouver Island and British Columbia (UBC Press 2021); and an article entitled“As Sharp as a Knife: Judge Begbie and Reconciliation,” in John Borrows and Kent McNeil, ed. Voicing Identity: Cultural Appropriation and Indigenous Issues (U. of T. Press, 2022).

Matthew Baillie Begbie was controversial almost from the moment he stepped off the boat in 1858. And lately he has become controversial once again, primarily for his role in the trials following the Chilcotin War in 1864. As a result, the Benchers of the Law Society of BC removed his statue from their building in 2017; New Westminster followed suit by removing their statue of him from the city’s public square; and, just last year, the Vancouver School Board changed the name of Matthew Baillie Begbie Elementary to Wək̓ʷan̓əs tə syaqʷəm.    

A colonial judge is, admittedly, no longer an appropriate symbol for the 21st century legal profession. But as one of Begbie’s successors as chief justice said: statues are seen as a sign of respect, and their removal is seen as a sign that respect is no longer due. He added that, although no historical figure is without flaws, it would be a mistake to allow Begbie’s life and work to be dismissed by the Benchers in the way it had been.

In fact, a strong case can be made that Begbie was more unpopular with a significant and vocal element of the settler community and the press of his day than he was with Indigenous people. The presentation will address this and some other issues raised by his critics, including his role in the 1864 trials; the question of colonial vs. Tsilhqot’in law; the matter of whether Begbie really was a “Hanging Judge;” his opinion and treatment of Indigenous peoples; and, generally, his record as a judge.


October 26, 2023

W̱JOȽEȽP First Nation, BC:  WSÁNEĆ Perspectives on the Saanich Treaty of 1852

John Elliott J’SIṈTEN
Location: James Bay New Horizons Centre, 7:30pm

There is ongoing controversy around the Saanich Treaties in which blank pieces of paper were ‘signed’ with crosses by Indigenous chiefs at meetings with Governor Douglas in February of 1852, to which Governor Douglas appended treaty wording a few months later.  WSÁNEĆ Elder J’’SINTEN Dr John Elliott will speak to us about the history of the meetings and the ensuing 171 years of WSÁNEĆ actions related to rights and title.  What does this mean to those of us on Douglas treaty lands?  “We are all Treaty people.”

J’SIṈTEN Dr John Elliott is a respected Elder from the W̱JOȽEȽP Tsartlip First Nation who is an authority on WSÁNEĆ history and culture.   He is a historian, mentor, language warrior, traditional knowledge keeper and a gifted teacher and speaker. He has played a pivotal role in the preservation and revitalization of the SENĆOŦEN language, co-founding FirstVoices.com and teaching language and culture courses at the WSÁNEĆ Tribal School, the University of Victoria and Camosun College. He is past-Chair of the First Peoples’ Cultural Foundation and has been honored with many awards and two honorary doctorates.

November 23, 2023

Coast Salish Weaving

Myrna Crossley Elliott
Location: James Bay New Horizons Centre, 7:30pm

Myrna comes from a long line of Salish Weavers and her interest was sparked when she received her Great Grandmother’s treadle spinner from an Auntie. She began weaving in 1993 under the mentorship of Master Weaver Rita (Louis) Bob of W̱SÁNEĆ .  She made her first blanket for her husband, Master Carver Charles TEMOSENTET for the Commonwealth Games in 1994.  Myrna will be demonstrating and sharing her knowledge in a workshop format for the November meeting of the Victoria Historical Society.

Myrna Crossley Elliott is a Coast Salish Weaver with Indigenous roots from the Esquimalt and Songhees Peoples and who lives in the W̱SÁNEĆ village of WJOŁEŁP. Myrna sources natural dyes, hand spins wool, and weaves on a traditional Salish loom to create gorgeous Salish blankets, shawls and ceremonial regalia.

Photo of Myran Crossley Elliot courtesy of David Borrowman.

December 2, 2023

Japanese Gardens in Victoria, 1907-present

Gordon and Ann-Lee Switzer
Holiday Luncheon at the Union Club. (Tickets must be purchased in advance for this special event)

Ann-Lee and Gordon Switzer are both writers, editors and researchers residing in Victoria. In 2007 as a result of their research in the BC Archives, a collection of Emily Carr’s unpublished writings appeared titled This and That. In 2010 the Switzers began research into the history of early Japanese immigrants to Victoria, on behalf of the Victoria Nikkei Cultural Society. The results were published as Gateway To Promise: Canada’s First Japanese Community. The book won second prize from the BC Historical Association in 2013. Since then they published two additional books on the Japanese community in Victoria: Sakura in Stone and Esquimalt Japanese Garden. Their talk and slide presentation will focus on the history of Japanese Gardens in Victoria from 1907 to the present.

January 25, 2024

The Heritage Detective: The hidden stories of ordinary Victorians who did extraordinary things

Helen Edwards
Location: James Bay New Horizons Centre, 7:30pm

The Heritage Detective, Volumes One and Two are based on articles Helen Edwards wrote on heritage buildings and the people who lived and worked in them.  Because, of course, it wasn’t just the mansions that had exciting histories. Learn about the electrocution on Fort Street, a pioneer who owned Wallace Island and the story of his nephew who lived in James Bay, the survival of tiny houses from around the turn of the twentieth century on upper Fort Street, early real estate speculation in Fairfield, and houses moved from their original location to new sites.

Helen Edwards was born in Victoria and has lived her entire life here. Active in heritage preservation for 47 years, she has used her experience to write articles about ordinary people and fascinating stories behind their buildings.