ARCHIBALD, WALTER PALMER, Salvation Army officer, civil servant, and judge; b. 21 Sept. 1860 in Truro, N.S., son of William Pitt Archibald and Phœbe Ann Huestis; m. 25 Jan. 1893, in Hamilton, Ont., Captain Jessie Butler of the Salvation Army, and they had two daughters; d. 17 Jan. 1922 in Ottawa.
Walter Archibald was accepted as a cadet in the Salvation Army on 14 Dec. 1885 after being called to the army at a meeting in his home town. An athletic youth who was remembered as a “champion fancy skater of the Maritime provinces,” he later described himself “as a wanderer from the word go” who had been born to Christian parents but “when quite young had learned the habits of drink and tobacco.” His conversion reformed him. As a member of the Salvation Army, he was sent to Saint John, Moncton, and Charlottetown. He first went to Toronto in November 1886, and eventually involved himself in the army’s rescue and training homes for men and in the Children’s Shelter; about 1897 he became engaged in its Prison Gate movement, established in 1890 to help men released from jail. On 5 April 1900, a year after the federal parole system had been instituted, he was granted special leave to serve voluntarily as a parole officer while retaining his secretaryship of the Prison Gate program. Four months after his promotion to brigadier on 1 June 1904, he appeared at a conference under the title “commissioner of parole” for the Salvation Army.
With its permission, Archibald resigned his position (and likely gave up his commission) to assume a permanent appointment on 1 May 1905 as Canada’s first dominion parole officer, in the penitentiary branch of the Department of Justice. He had to borrow the money to move his family from Toronto to Ottawa – after 20 years with the Salvation Army he had accumulated no financial assets. In his new post, which he would hold until his death at age 61, he was responsible for overseeing prisoners released under the terms of the Ticket of Leave Act of 1899, Canada’s first parole legislation. He worked alone for the first eight years, travelling across the country to interview and supervise offenders. He described his work in a report in July 1911 to justice minister Sir Allen Bristol Aylesworth*. During the previous year he had interviewed 823 prisoners, visited 315 men out on parole, helped 67 of them find employment, and intervened in several family situations to reconcile separated partners. He claimed that the great majority of those released since the system’s inception “have not betrayed their trust or honour.” Discharge from penitentiary, he believed, should be gradual. “The man on parole is still a prisoner in the eyes of the law, and his release is simply a test of his ability and willingness to maintain himself as an honest citizen.” He advocated stronger measures to prevent crime by improving social conditions, especially in Canadian cities, “which are producing a type of vicious criminality equal to any in quality (if not quantity) in the civilized world.”
Although he questioned some proposals for reform, such as indeterminate sentencing and probation, Archibald carried on a steady campaign of speeches across Canada and abroad on the need for prison reform and the importance of the parole system. He gave addresses at the annual congresses of the National Prison Association of the United States. Speaking to the Empire Club of Canada in Toronto in 1908, he presented his recipe for reforming criminals: “good treatment, a strong and healthy discipline, fair dealing, the criminal’s recognition of his own criminality, his desire and willingness to reform, a recognition of the criminal as a human being by outside society, and a recognition by the hand of justice that, while it is necessary and just to punish crime, yet the clemency of a parole is not to be withheld from any really hopeful case.” Archibald, who never lost his Salvation Army missionary zeal, described his campaign to improve the climate for parolees as “his work in uplifting the fallen.” He acknowledged that he and his wife used $200–300 of his annual salary of $2,650 to assist released prisoners who found themselves in financial trouble. Before he addressed the city council of Regina in 1912, the mayor introduced him as “the eyes, ears and the heart of justice as it is now administered in Canada.” The Moose Jaw Evening Times (Moose Jaw, Sask.) saw him not as a man “paid to look after criminals, but rather as one who is in love with humanitarian work.” In 1920 he was able to look back with pride on what had been accomplished. “The majority of people have been educated to give a man a fair chance coming out of prison to reclaim himself,” he told the deputy minister of justice, Edmund Leslie Newcombe*.
Archibald’s calls for penal reform and his Christian philanthropy were not universally applauded, however. Police officials intent on controlling and punishing criminals did not always agree with his emphasis on social conditioning as a factor in criminality and juvenile delinquency. John Taylor Gilmour, who as warden of Toronto’s Central Prison had worked with Archibald in the Prison Gate program, came to oppose a parole system that had too few resources to provide effective supervision. In an unofficial letter to Newcombe in 1912, he referred to Archibald’s “fondness for publicity and the amusing methods he resorts to in obtaining it.” He further alleged that the parole officer had improperly solicited money from private individuals to assist prisoners. In rejecting the charges, Archibald responded that Gilmour had been trying for some time “to destroy my influence and character and in my estimation he ranks with any blackhand agency in the Dominion.” Newcombe dismissed the allegations and Archibald carried on, unhindered by any other opponent. In 1919 he began to serve as an unpaid judge in Carleton County’s Juvenile Court, where he was able to take a humanitarian approach to cases, in contrast to the strictly legal manner of the police magistrates who had tried juveniles formerly.
Archibald died suddenly of heart failure on the evening of 17 Jan. 1922 after leaving a quarterly board meeting at the Dominion Methodist Church, which he had attended since moving to Ottawa; he was survived by his wife and their daughters, Eva May and Frances Willard. He had been a freemason, a supporter of the Sailors’ Mission, and a founder of the local Big Brothers and Big Sisters associations. The Ottawa Evening Journal described him as the father of the parole system in Canada. In commemoration, the Salvation Army named its first federal halfway house for discharged prisoners, which opened in Toronto in 1983, the W. P. Archibald Centre.
Walter Palmer Archibald is the author of “The parole system – an historical review,” Canadian Law Rev. (Toronto), 6 (1907): 222–29.
AO, RG 22-354, no.10609; RG 80-5-0-210, no.13257; RG 80-8-0-863, no.9243. LAC, MG 29, D61, 1: 236; RG 13, 173, file 1001; 253, file 2315. Salvation Army, George Scott Railton Heritage Centre, Arch. and Museum (Toronto), W. P. Archibald Centre, hist. and description; W. P. Archibald personnel file. Ottawa Evening Journal, 18 Jan. 1922. War Cry (Toronto), 16 July 1887, 27 June 1891, 11 Feb. 1893. Can., Parl., Sessional papers, 1906, no.34: 15–21, app.A; 1906–7, no.30: 4; 1912, no.34: 9–13. Canadian men and women of the time (Morgan; 1912). D. O. Carrigan, Crime and punishment in Canada: a history (Toronto, 1991). Directory, Toronto, 1893, 1900. Greg Marquis, Policing Canada’s century: a history of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police (Toronto, 1993). National Prison Assoc. of the United States, Proc. of the annual congress (Pittsburgh), 1903: vi, 299–311; 1904: vii, 217–30; (Indianapolis), 1905: 218–19, 305–10. Standard dict. of Canadian biog. (Roberts and Tunnell).
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Cite This Article
David R. Murray, “ARCHIBALD, WALTER PALMER,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 15, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed June 2, 2023, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/archibald_walter_palmer_15E.html.
The citation above shows the format for footnotes and endnotes according to the Chicago manual of style (16th edition). Information to be used in other citation formats:
|Author of Article:||David R. Murray|
|Title of Article:||ARCHIBALD, WALTER PALMER|
|Publication Name:||Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 15|
|Publisher:||University of Toronto/Université Laval|
|Year of publication:||2005|
|Year of revision:||2005|
|Access Date:||June 2, 2023|