Memorable Manitobans: Thomas Graham Mathers (1859-1927)
Born at Lucknow, Ontario on 16 April 1859, son of Christopher Mathers formerly of County Armagh, Ireland, and Rachel Graham of County Fermanagh, Ireland. He was educated at Lucknow and Kincardine, Ontario. He worked as editor of the Manitoba Liberal newspaper at Portage la Prairie. He started the study of law in 1884 and was called to the Manitoba Bar in 1890. He was a member of the law firm, Munroe, West and Mathers from 1890 to 1895 and Martin, Mathers and Anderson from 1895 to 1897, and a law partner of Chief Justice Howell from 1898 to 1905. In the latter year, he was appointed a Judge of the Court of King’s Bench, elevated to Chief Justice in February 1910. He was Chairman of the Board of License Commissioners from 1899 to 1900, and an Alderman of the City of Winnipeg from 1898 to 1899. He served on the founding Advisory Board for the Winnipeg Foundation, in 1921.
He served as Chairman of several commissions: a Hospital Commission appointed by the City of Winnipeg in 1908; the Royal Commission to inquire into escape of Krafchenko from City Police Station in 1914; the Royal Commission consisting of Sir Hugh John MacDonald, Mr. Justice MacDonald and himself to inquire into construction of Manitoba Parliament Buildings, in 1915; the Royal Commissioner to inquire into construction of Manitoba Law Courts in 1916; the Royal Commission appointed by Dominion Government to inquire into Metal Trades in Winnipeg in 1918; and the Royal Commission appointed by Dominion Government to inquire into Industrial Relations between employers and employed in Canada in 1919.
The 1919 Industrial Commission that bore his name found much unrest in Canada. It concluded that economic conditions rather than foreign aliens were responsible for this unrest, recommending as a way to a better future a package of reform measures that included minimum wage legislation, an eight hour day, unemployment and health insurance, and free collective bargaining. As judge he granted bail to the eight leaders of the Winnipeg General Strike charged with seditious conspiracy, but he refused to allow bail to aliens arrested at the same time under the Immigration Act, on the grounds that his court had jurisdiction to grant habeas corpus only in criminal cases.
He died at Rochester, Minnesota on 16 August 1927. He is commemorated by Mathers Avenue in Winnipeg.
Who’s Who in Western Canada: A Biographical Dictionary of Notable Living Men and Women of Western Canada, Volume 1, 1911. C. W. Parker, editor. Canadian Press Association, Vancouver.
The Leading Financial, Business & Professional Men of Winnipeg, published by Edwin McCormick, Photographs by T. J. Leatherdale, Compiled and printed by Stone Limited, c1913. [copy available at the Archives of Manitoba]
Pioneers and Prominent People of Manitoba, Winnipeg: Canadian Publicity Company, 1925.
“Chief Justice of Manitoba dead,” Brandon Sun, 16 August 1927, page 1.
“Body of Chief Justice is expected to arrive today,” Manitoba Free Press, 18 August 1927, page 2.
The Court of Queen’s Bench of Manitoba, 1870-1950: A Biographical History by Dale Brawn, Toronto: Osgoode Society for Canadian Legal History, 2006, 432 pages.
This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.
Page revised: 8 October 2016
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