The Real Janey Canuck

The Real Janey Canuck
Posted by FoM on April 15, 2000 at 08:08:41 PT
By Harry Bruce, National Post
Source: National Post
The anti-marijuana writings of an Edmonton woman in the 1920s were so influential that many of her opinions helped shape legislation that lasted decades.Amazingly, as Donna Laframboise recently reported on these pages, the National Post, Toronto Star, Globe and Mail, Ottawa Citizen, The Economist and a whole bunch of cops, coroners, lawyers, health-care workers, celebrities and assorted dignitaries believe governments hurl billions of taxpayers' dollars into a war on drugs that's utterly futile. 
Most of the criminal charges involve marijuana, so harmless by comparison to booze and cigarettes that the war looks spectacularly stupid, and many of those who revile the campaign urge the legalization of pot. But to whom does Canada owe its antiquated drug laws? One of their earliest and most influential promoters was an Edmonton woman who in 1920 wrote exposes for Maclean's about the illicit drug trade. She called herself Janey Canuck, and it was good old Janey who first warned Canadians about "marahuana." Seven years later, Canada outlawed its use. In a broader context, researchers for the LeDain Commission on the Non-Medical Use of Drugs reported in 1973, "Her writings were extremely influential in shaping Canadian drug laws," and many of her "original proposals are still reflected in our narcotics legislation." Janey urged stiffer jail sentences for drug offenders, healthy doses of the lash, and if they were aliens, instant deportation. She was not a nice person. According to the commission's team, her writing was sensationalist, fable-ridden and exploitive of "popular racial bias." Yes indeed. "She created a series of women-seducing villains, primarily non-white and non-Christian, who threatened the Anglo-Saxon way of life." While explaining the motive behind the drug trade, Janey declared, "It is claimed, but with what truth we cannot say, that there is a well-defined propaganda among the aliens of color to bring about the degeneration of the white race." Another thing she apparently could not say was who made the claim. On the same theme, she then summarized the opinion of "Major Crehan of British Columbia" that since "the traffic always comes with the Oriental, one would be justified in assuming that it was their desire to injure the bright-browed races of the world. ...Some of the Negroes coming into Canada -- and they are no fiddle-faddle fellows either -- have similar ideas, and one of their greatest writers has boasted how ultimately they will control the white men." And who was that great black writer? Janey wasn't telling. She refers to "the lowest classes of yellow and black men," and "this sallow, unsmiling Oriental." After describing "a certain blackamoor," a railroad porter who was not only a drug offender but a possessor of "the most obscene literature ever printed," Janey wrote, "One can hardly imagine anything more dangerous than a filthy-minded drug addict in charge of a coach of sleeping people, whatever his color may be." Even when complimenting one race, Janey felt compelled to trash another: "The Chinese are as a rule friendly people and have a fine sense of humor that puts them on an easy footing with our folk, as compared with the Hindu and others we might mention. ...Ah Duck, or whatever we choose to call him," was at least "patient, polite and persevering." Janey's articles were so popular among Canada's Christian whites, with their fears of the Yellow Peril and the dangers that lurked among dark-skinned people, that in 1922, the stories appeared between hard covers as The Black Candle. It was in Back Pages, a fine little used-book store in downtown Halifax, that I stumbled upon this little-known CanLit gem. My, she was proud of that book, so proud she nominated herself for a 1923 Nobel Prize. Frederick Banting and J.J.R. McLeod shared a Nobel that year for the discovery of insulin, but alas for Janey, the award for literature went to some poet named William Butler Yeats. At least he belonged to a "bright-browed" race, even if he was an Irishman. Who was the charming Miss Canuck? None other than Mrs. Emily Murphy, the first woman judge in the British Empire, and one of the "the famous five." In 1929, these women won a judgment from the British Privy Council that declared women were indeed persons under the British North America Act, and therefore entitled to sit in the Senate. They had proved the truth of Emily's credo:"The world loves a peaceful man, but gives way to a strenuous kicker." So she's huge in the heroine biz. Edmonton has its Emily Murphy Road, and its Emily Murphy Park, with its Emily Murphy statue. Calgary recently unveiled a statue of the famous five, which of course included Emily. From a similar statue, she'll soon glare in all her glory on Parliament Hill. Kate Nelligan portrays her in one of those sucky Canadian Heritage fillers on television. Greg Gatenby, director of Toronto's Harbourfront Reading Series, wants a new street near his home named after her. To be fair to Janey, The Black Candle not only urged those corrective lashings -- 10 on the way into the slammer, and just for good measure, 10 more on the way out -- but also recommended, unsuccessfully, the establishment of treatment centres for drug addicts. Still, if pot-smokers (not to mention Chinese Canadians) were as fanatical as certain Quebec separatists, they'd be planting bombs under those bronze Emilies. But they're not. Compared to Janey, they're a gentle crowd.Published: Saturday, April 15, 2000Copyright  Southam Inc. CannabisNews Articles From Canada:
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Comment #1 posted by Symmetric on April 15, 2000 at 22:08:49 PT:
The Black Candle
It's books like The Black Candle that make me ashamed to be canadian.
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