Reid, Robie L. (1866-1945)

Robie Lewis Reid was the principal lawyer for the immigration department in the Komagata Maru case. Thirty-seven year later, when he wrote about the episode and his involvement in it, he stated emphatically that the immigration agent, Malcolm Reid, had taken no steps without consulting himself and his law firm associate, W.H.D. Ladner. “If, therefore, there was anything done which was improper, we were the persons responsible.” He then went on to say—defensively—that he did not think that what they did was wrong, “nor where could we have done better.” As he saw it, they (the immigration officers on the spot and the lawyers advising them) had nothing to do with making the law. “Our duty was to enforce it.” He was a Maritimer, born in Cornwallis, King’s County, Nova Scotia, who spent most of his adult life in British Columbia and who saw Vancouver rise from its very beginnings. He completed grammar school at Pictou Academy on the Northumberland Shore of Nova Scotia and briefly attended Dalhousie College in Halifax, before coming to British Columbia at nineteen, first of all to teach in Clover Valley (Cloverdale) near Vancouver. After two years he entered a law program at the University of Michigan; and he began practicing law in the U.S., in Bellingham, Washington, across the border just south of Vancouver. By 1893, he had moved to New Westminster, B.C. where he practiced law for twelve years before moving to Vancouver to become a partner in the leading law firm of W.J. Bowser, who was to be the attorney general of B.C. at the time of the Komagata Maru, and later the provincial premier. Reid’s many interests included the history of British Columbia—which contributed to his election in 1936 as a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. In 1941 he published in the British Columbia Historical Quarterly an article on the Komagata Maru with the insights and perspectives of his own direct involvement.

Sources: W. Stewart Wallace, The Macmillan Dictionary of Canadian Biography (Toronto: Macmillan of Canada, 1978); Masonic Grand Lodge Records, Grand Lodge of British Columbia, biographies, website; Robie L. Reid, “The Inside Story of the Komagata Maru,” British Columbia Historical Quarterly, vol. 5, Jan, 1941, pp. 1 – 23.