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The Yukon Territory
Chapter 2. Constitution and Government


In 1894 a detachment of the Northwest Mounted Police had been sent to the Yukon under the command of Inspector Constantino, who was authorized to represent all the different departments of government in the district. In the following year the mining industry had grown to such proportions that Inspector Constantino, was no longer able to handle all the business he was called upon to transact, and an officer was appointed to take charge of the customs. In the following year a gold commissioner was appointed, and the recording office was removed from Fortymile to the site of the present city of Dawson. In 189S the Yukon was created a Territory by an Act of Parliament, and provision was made for local government by a legislative council composed of the commissioner and six persons to be appointed by the Governor in Council. In July, 1895, Mr. William Ogilvie was appointed commissioner, and assumed the administration of affairs, the other members of the council being the registrar, the superintendent of the Northwest Mounted Police, the judge of the Territorial Court and the legal adviser to the commissioner. In the following year the gold commissioner was also appointed a member of the council. The council, at that time, met several times each month for the transaction of business, which included not only the enactment of necessary legislation for the peace, order and good government of the Territory, but also the expenditure of much money for hospital and charitable purposes and for the construction of roads and trails to the different creeks, as well as the disposal of a multitude of minor affairs of a purely municipal nature.

In 1899 the Yukon Territory Act was amended, and provision was made for the election of two members to the Yukon Council. In 1902 the Act was further amended, providing for the election of five members. By Chapter 37, 2 Edward VII., provision was made for the election of a member to represent the Yukon Territory in the House of Commons of Canada, and on the 2nd December, 1902, the Honourable James H. Ross, who had resigned the commissionership, was elected the first member of parliament.

The Yukon Territory Act (Chapter 6, 61 Victoria) 1898, provided for the appointment of a commissioner to administer the government of the Territory under instructions from the Governor General and Minister of the Interior, and the appointment of not exceeding six persons to be a council, to aid the commissioner. This Act as amended in 1899 (Chapter 11, 62-63 Victoria, Part) provided for two elected members of council, and as further amended in 1902 (Chapter 31, 2 Edward VII.), for ii\e elected members. The elected members hold office for two years, and are paid an indemnity for attendance.

The Supreme Court of Record is the Territorial Court, which is presided over by a senior judge and two other judges. It has appellate, civil and criminal jurisdiction. The Territorial Court en banc has appellate jurisdiction in appeals from the judgment of a police magistrate given under section 785 of the Criminal Code, 1892. In relation to mining disputes an appeal lies from the decision of the Territorial Court en banc to the Supreme Court of Canada. For the purposes of Part LII., Criminal Code, and amendments, an appeal lies from the judgment of the Territorial Court to the Supreme Court of Canada, unless the judges of the Territorial Court are unanimous, when there shall be no appeal.

Under Chapter 6 of 1906, the commissioner may refer to the Territorial Court for an opinion upon constitutional or other territorial questions. The decision of the court, although advisory only, shall, for purposes of appeal, be treated as a final judgment of the court between parties.

The commissioner, members of council and judges of the Territorial Court, and every commissioned officer of the Royal Northwest Mounted Police, can exercise in the Yukon Territory all the powers of one or two justices of the peace, under any laws or ordinances, civil or criminal, in the Territory. All persons possessing the powers of two justices of the peace can act as coroners.

The commissioner can establish unincorporated towns, and arrange for the election of an overseer. Overseers shall hold office for the calendar year ensuing after the day on which the election is to be held, but may be removed by the commissioner.

Dawson, Capital of the Yukon Territory.

Situated at the confluence of the Klondike and Yukon rivers, and at a point accessible to navigation, is the townsite of Dawson, which quickly became the centre of business and the distributing point to the different creeks. The townsite was laid out in blocks, cabins were rapidly built, streets were graded and improved, stores, hotels, hospitals and churches were built, a water system, electric light plant and telephones were installed, business men started in opposition to the companies which had been trading in the district, and by 1900 Dawson had become a typical up-to-date western town. The city of Dawson was incorporated in 1902, and governed by a mayor and municipal council until the fall of 1904, when by petition and upon the verdict of a plebiscite, the charter was rescinded, and the affairs of the city are now administer® by the commissioner.

By 1900 the accommodation afforded by the different government offices was found to be absolutely inadequate for the proper transaction of the increasing volume of business. During the summer of this year the post office building was erected at a cost of about $51,000, providing accommodation for a post office, customs, registrar's office and telegraph office. In the same year a court house was erected at a cost of about $50,000, and an administration building at a cost complete in the neighbourhood of $100,000. The administration building provides accommodation for the transaction of business connected with the different branches of the Department of the Interior and territorial government, and a council chamber, in which the sessions of the legislative council are held. In 1902 school buildings were erected at a cost of about $40,000.

In 1900-04 the Carnegie Library was built at a cost of over $25,000, which amount was donated by Mr. Andrew Carnegie. There is also a large skating and curling rink, with club rooms and gymnasium, which were built: at a cost of about $40,000.


Administration Building, Dawson, Yukon Territory.

During the summer of 1900 Lord Minto, who was at that time Governor General of Canada, and Lady Minto, visited Dawson, and were accorded an enthusiastic welcome by the citizens, miners, and all classes of the community.

In September, 1904, the Honourable J. H. Ross, M. P. for Yukon, was appointed to the Senate, and in December of the same year Dr. Alfred Thompson was elected as an independent member, defeating Mr. F T. Congdon, K.C., who had resigned from the commissionership to contest the seat.

During the summer of 1905 the Honourable Frank Oliver, Minister of the Interior, visited Dawson. Mr. Oliver was the first minister of the Crown who had visited the Territory, and he was accorded a very cordial reception. A large banquet was given in his honour by the citizens of Dawson, mining-operators and miners. Mr. Oliver visited some of the rich producing creeks in the Klondike district, and no doubt gained much valuable information, which could not fail to be of assistance to the government in the consideration and disposition of important mining questions affecting the general development, of the Territory.


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