Pubdate: Fri, 04 Feb 2005
Source: Ottawa X Press (CN ON)
Page: Cover Story
Copyright: 2005 Ottawa X Press
Author: John Akpata
Note: From MAP: Since it was Emily Murphy who, through her fear mongering, 
led Canada to outlaw cannabis, we make an exception for this article which 
has no direct reference to our issues. Please see


The Medusa of Murphy 	

Deconstructing a Monument to Canadian Racism

During February, some Canadians participate in the celebration of the 
history, heritage and culture of Canadian people of colour. Every year 
during black history month I learn something new. Sometimes when I pass on 
what I know to other Canadians, they stare at me, frozen in disbelief. 
History can be a Medusa that traps you in time, but breaking the spell and 
moving forward is easier than you think.

Will the Real Emily Murphy Please Stand Up?

Emily Murphy was the first female magistrate in the British Empire. She was 
appointed to the Alberta courts in 1916 after her University education. She 
litigated the Persons Case that went before the Supreme Court of Canada, 
and, when it turned her down, the British Privy Council. Women had received 
the right to vote 10 years earlier in 1919, and other laws recognizing 
women as persons needed to be revised. Emily Murphy became a symbol of the 
feminist movement in Canada.

On October 18, 1929 the British Privy Council decided Canadian women were 
people under the British North America Act and, therefore, they could be 
eligible for appointment to the Senate. Five Alberta women played a key 
role in this achievement, and are referred to as the Famous Five. They are 
Irene Parlby, Henrietta Muir Edwards, Louise McKinney, Nellie McClung and 
Emily Murphy. Bronze sculptures of the Famous Five were unveiled in Calgary 
at the Olympic Plaza on October 18, 1999 and second sculptures were 
unveiled on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on October 18, 2000.

Statues on Parliament Hill are usually reserved for prime ministers or 
royalty-an exception was made for the Famous Five. They were also added to 
the new $50 bill as part of the 75th anniversary of the Persons Case, and 
the bill was issued on November 17, 2004. Currently 33 of 89 senators in 
Canada are female. That's what most people do know.

Here's what they don't. In 1922, Emily Murphy began writing under the pen 
name of Janey Canuck. She regularly appeared in Maclean's and other 
publications. She attacked Asian immigrants, American blacks, Jews and 
other Eastern Europeans who had chosen Alberta as their home. Her 
publication, The Black Candle, is a series of essays that justify her 
particular type of racism. Her work outlined the belief that 
multiculturalism spelled moral degeneracy and was detrimental to the purity 
of the white race. Her highly influential and extremely popular book 
advocated prohibition, tighter immigration control and "exclusion of all 
persons of colour from the continent."

Murphy's articles and books were instrumental in creating hatred for Asian 
immigrants. Thousands were deported, many were jailed unfairly, and Chinese 
exclusion laws were endorsed and publicly supported by Emily Murphy. Laws 
made it illegal for white women to be employed by Chinese men until the 
1930s in British Columbia, and 1946 in Saskatchewan and Alberta. Although 
she helped white Canadian women win the right to vote in 1919, Asian 
persons were not allowed to vote until 1949.

Eugenics 101

Emily Murphy was also closely associated with the Orange Order, an 
organization of Irish-descended Protestants who advocated a European-based 
system of apartheid. They were exclusionary to Catholics, and all non-white 
persons, and closely associated with the Ku Klux Klan. From 1922 to 1937 
the Klan was active in British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan.

The word "eugenics" was coined in 1883 by Sir Francis Galton, a cousin of 
Charles Darwin, to refer to the study and use of selective breeding of 
animals or humans to improve a species over generations. Adolf Hitler and 
the Nazi party fabricated and clearly defined five so-called races of human 
being based upon colour of skin and texture of hair. White was to be 
superior, on top of yellow, brown, red and black. The Nazis systematically 
murdered millions of people, based upon the ideologies of white supremacy 
and ethnic cleansing. Their tactics included mass murder, controlled 
breeding, and sterilization.

Judge Emily Murphy approved all the legislation that passed through her 
bench at the time, which included all of the Chinese exclusion acts, the 
Indian Act of 1923 and the Residential School Act of 1925. From 1923 to 
1980, the Canadian government took native children off their designated 
reservation, to be raised by Christian-run schools and dormitories.

Three of the Famous Five advocated for sterilization of some persons. Emily 
Murphy travelled throughout British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan and 
delivered more than 100 speeches supporting laws for forced sterilization. 
Murphy, along with McClung, a novelist and legislator, and McKinney, the 
first woman sworn into the Alberta Legislature, were all instrumental in 
the Alberta Sexual Sterilization Act adopted in 1928. Until 1972, the 
Alberta government made applications to the provincial court for the forced 
sterilization of 4,725 Albertans (2,882 were actually authorized). Most of 
the sterilizations were done to young women under the age of 25. Some as 
young as 14 had surgical procedures to ensure that they could never 
sexually reproduce. Native persons and Metis comprised only 2.5 per cent of 
Alberta's population, but accounted for 25 per cent of Alberta's 
sterilization procedures.

Hindsight is 20-20

B P W Canada is an equality group that addresses the needs of business and 
professional women. Over several years, they have raised thousands of 
dollars for the commemorative statues of the Famous Five in Olympic Plaza 
in Calgary, and on Parliament Hill, as well as a commemorative plaque in 
the Senate. "I am not sure that we would do the same thing today," said 
vice president Fran Donaldson, referring to the infamous three out of the 
five. "It can be quite disturbing to realize some of the things that were 
done." True. And a memorial plaque could easily be added to explain the 
truth. Then people would be able to learn from our past.

But all signs point to more of the same, and we're not learning from the 
past. In 2001 a new series of Canadian bank notes named Canadian Journey 
were introduced. The notes celebrate Canadian culture, history and 
achievements. The theme of the new $50 is "Nation building shaping the 
political legal and social structures for democracy and equality." The bank 
of Canada surveyed 4,000 Canadians during the design process to get their 
input. For this theme, with input from the focus group and other sources, 
the Bank of Canada proposed the Famous Five for the back of the bill. 
Designed by Jorge Peral with Canadian Bank Note, it also depicts a quote 
from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as well as two scales, 
representing justice, and an image of the medallion that is awarded as the 
Therese Casgrain volunteer award (an award presented to a male and female 
Canadian who has had significant achievement in volunteering).

The Bank of Canada acknowledged, when asked, that during the focus groups, 
some persons were concerned about some of the history of the Famous Five, 
but believed that their contributions as a whole were significant for the 
bill. Designers, researchers and experts all contributed to the design of 
the currency. The final design for all bank notes is approved by the 
Minister of Finance. The infamous three fooled them all.

The Devil in the Details

Complaints have been logged from citizens in Calgary and Montreal about the 
bill, the Bank of Canada said. And there is a precedent for removing 
Canadian money from circulation. In 1954 the $50 bill had Queen Elizabeth 
on the face. Many people believed that in the line work of the Queen's hair 
above her left ear was a gargoyle-like face. Known as the "Devil's head" 
bill, it was modified in 1956 to remove the effect. There have been 105 
million Famous Five Fifties printed and circulated. For the sake of all the 
human beings that suffered, and for the sake of Canada's sense of respect, 
these notes must also be modified. The Bank of Canada must remove the 
effect of Emily Murphy and her colleagues from Canada's modern identity.

If after reading this you think the bill should be changed, you can contact 
the following places:

Bank of Canada


Minster of Finance Ralph Goodale

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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake