McInnes, T.R.E. (1867-1951)

Thomas (Tom) Robert Edward McInnes (also MacInnes) was a prominent British Columbian who claimed special knowledge of the Sikh community. He was the son of T.R. McInnes, who served a term as lieutenant governor of B.C. (1897-1900). He was born in Dresden, Ontario but moved to New Westminster, B.C. as a teenager with his parents. He attended the University of Toronto and was called to the bar in 1893 and then practiced law in Vancouver.  He became his father’s private secretary when the latter was lieutenant governor; and from 1896 he was employed in a number of special roles by the Canadian government, including secretary of the Bering Sea Commission, secretary of the Salmon Fisheries Commission. In 1907, following the anti-Asian riot in Vancouver, he conducted a secret investigation for the Department of the Interior, and in 1908 he was sent to Vancouver by the governor general to look into the organized agitation against Asiatic immigration. He was also involved in the drafting of the Immigration Act of 1910. In August 1913, he had asked the prime minister for a special commission to conduct another investigation into Asiatic immigration but this he did not get. In 1909 this same T.R.E. McInnes was the author of a prescient legal opinion on Aboriginal title in British Columbia suggesting that the province had acted outside the law in failing to purchase Aboriginal lands. He was a poet of modest ability who is represented in the 1960 edition of the Oxford Book of Canadian Verse.

Sources:  Nora Story, The Oxford Companion to Canadian History and Liturature, (Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1967); Hamar Foster, “A Romance of the Lost: The Role of Tom MacInnes in the History of British Columbia Indian Land Question,” Essays in the History of Canadian Law, 171-212 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1999).