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Criminal Code Amendment Letter

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Emily Murphy, Letter Regarding Amending the Criminal Code. Courtesy of City of Edmonton Archives.

Women's Police Court, Civic Block, Edmonton, April 16th, 1917

A.G. Browning Esq. Deputy-Attorney General, Edmonton, Alta.

Dear Sir;

Re: Canadian Criminal Code

I desire to draw your attention to sub-section A of clause 238 of the Code and urge the extreme desirability of your requesting the Minister of Justice at Ottawa to have the words "or herself" inserted immediately following the word "himself" wherever it occurs.

Heretofore, females have been convicted under this sub-section, but it is now argued, and I believe on good grounds, that the word "everyone" in clause 238 does not include both sexes, the contrary intention being shown in its sub-sections.

No pronouns being used, the sub-sections C, D, E, F, G, and H include both sexes, while in A, B, and L, where "himself" is used the offences therein specified are supposedly male offences. In sub-section I, "herself" is used for what is palpably a female offence.

Owing to the extreme difficulty of getting material evidence against prostitutes, it is vitally important that the police should be able to call upon any "loose, idle or disorderly person" to show that she has "visible means of maintaining herself" and that she does not "live without employment," the onus of proof being upon her as upon the male offender.

Owing to the introduction of cabarets into our Canadian towns and cities, the methods of vice have changed. Women no longer accost men on the streets but do so at the cabarets under the cover of amusements which in themselves are legitimate. A great number of females, many of them very young girls, are thus maintaining themselves solely by prostitution and it is next to impossible for the police to secure evidence even against the best-known prostitutes.

Were the amendment above suggested put into force, we would be able to regain a fairly good grip on a situation that bids fair to get wholly beyond control.

Hoping you will give this suggestion your favorable consideration,

I have the honor to be, Your obedient servant,

Police Magistrate, City of Edmonton and Judge of Juvenile Court

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