The best way a woman magistrate, or any other woman
can be a savior is not to stoop and save, but to stand by
the girl and let her save herself.
—Emily Murphy, 1919
Emily Murphy was appointed as Police Magistrate for the
Province of Alberta in 1916, and served in that position
until her retirement in 1931, when she began to devote more
time to her literary and business pursuits. She was the
first woman in the British Empire to be appointed to such a
Murphy's approach to the problem of crime was humanistic
and progressive, as she was more concerned with correcting
and rehabilitating offenders than with punishing them. She
believed in eradicating the cause of misdemeanours instead
of concentrating all effort on dealing with their effects.
Her book, The Black Candle, an exposé on the traffic in
narcotics, was published in 1922. When a case involving two
Chinese people accused of selling narcotics was set to
appear before her in 1924, the defence attorney argued that
she should not be allowed to judge the case as a result of
her bias against drug traffickers and Chinese people.
As proof of her bias, he quoted selections from her book,
such as her statement that "every drug fiend is a lawyer,"
her characterization of the "scoudrelly business of drug
pedalling," as well as her question regarding social
conditions and lifestyle, "If Chinese are allowed to live
like rats in a cellar, what else can be expected?"
The defense lawyer implied that Murphy stood to gain in
terms of increased sales of her (out of print) book, and
also argued that because the accused were men, they ought to
be tried by a man. The judge who heard the argument against
allowing Murphy to judge the case denied the request to move
the case to another judge, on the basis that the lawyer did
not provide proof that the accused were in fact men. Nor did
he accept the contention that Murphy would profit from
increased sales of her book due to publicity surrounding the
trial. Nor did he consider the quotations from her book as
providing evidence that they would receive an unfair trial.
This same lawyer, in the course of the trial, quoted The
Black Candle as part of his defence of his clients. He
claimed that the witness against the accused drug seller was
himself, a drug addict. Since her own book quotes an expert
on addiction who says that all users of drugs are liars, and
that they cannot recover from the addiction, the witness for
the prosecution must be a liar, and therefore, an unreliable
witness. Thus, the charges against his client must be
Judge Murphy laughed at his arguments, noting that now he
is using her book to defend his client, when a week prior,
he was using it to prove that her views on the evils of
narcotics prejudiced her and rendered her unfit to give an
impartial verdict in a narcotic case.
Despite her controversial views, Murphy cared deeply
about people, and took an active interest in those who
appeared before her. Women, in particular, looked to her as
a friend who could advise them and help them in times of
trouble. She was also a staunch defender of the institution
of marriage, and whenever possible, undertook to help
resolve marital difficulties when they were brought before her.
In a 1931 article, she was called a "stern but fair"
judge, a characterization that none who knew her would
For More Information on Emily as Magistrate, See Readings.
|Heritage Trail: Edmonton Bawdy
House Raids 1911-1914:Part II
|In 1911, the Edmonton City
Council fired Police Chief Lanesy for being too
lenient on drinking, gambling, and prostitution.
Then the council did an about face and fired his
replacement, Chief Enzer, for being too strict.
According to historian David Leonard, in 1912
Edmonton's City Council rehired Lanesy as Police
Chief and with an increase in salary.