Emily Murphy Crusader

Publication Year: 
1945

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What she found in her investigations was startling. In 1919, on a per capita basis, Canada led the world in the narcotic drug traffic.
The traffic had gained a big foothold in the Dominion during the previous decade. In 1912, for instance, there were only 35 ounces of cocaine imported into Canada; seven years later it had jumped to 12, 333 ounces. Similarly in 1907, Canadians had imported 1, 523 ounces of morphine. In 1917 the import total was 30, 000 ounces.
It was true that the licensing system which the Federal Government had introduced in 1919, lowered imports considerably--on the record. Emily was convinced, however, from all that she found, that the illicit traffic was growing enormously.
With her mass of evidence assembled from hundreds of city police courts, with her own insatiable reading, and the knowledge she had gained in her years of magisterial work, she wrote five articles exposing the drug menace in Canada, for Maclean's Magazine. The results of her exposé on the increased traffic in Canada were instantaneous. Newspapers throughout Canada published editorials or followed up Emily's comments with local stories indicating how true they were. In school and college, from pulpit and platform the facts of addiction were presented stripped of the spectacular.
"Clean-up squads" went to work in towns and cities throughout canada, and Emily co-operated closely with those in her own province. In one letter she notes her method of helping a plainclothes man who was investigating a southern settlement. "Almost every day I sent M--a letter with notes gleaned during the twenty-four hours, on the narcotic situation...who is selling, using, or being convicted, also , who is likely to give information."
With the publication of the articles, she received hundreds of letters, many of them from drug addicts asking help, or telling their own experiences. One of them, in particular, wrote such a vivid letter, that Emily became interested in helping him to conquer the habit. Within a year he was at work with the police force, as an under-cover man. For a year or two he corresponded often with Emily, outlining the results of his investigation. On one occasion, when he was in a small Alberta town, he wrote to Emily:
"I placed the book you loaned me in the top drawer of the bureau in my hotel room, forgetting that it had your autograph in it. Last night, several big drug pedlars came to my room. Joe discovered your book. If I had shown a bulldog a life-sized picture of a Tomcat, I might have produced the same effect...In desperation I told them that I had burglarized your home in Edmonton...I told them i was trying to find evidence on which you could be cinched, so as to stop your anti-drug activities. After I caught my breath, I became very eloquent and managed to turn the incident to good advantage. It was very nasty while it lasted. You will notice that the fly-leaf has been partly cut. One of the bunch started to cut it out, to show his headquarters evidence of my perfidy. As the leaf is still there, it means that I talked him out of it."
So keen was the national interest in what she had to say, that in 1922, The Black Candle was published. It was the first general summary of the drug traffic for the average reader published in Canada, or, for that matter, in the United States. For the first half of the book emily used the articles she had published in Maclean's. For the second portion, she assembled the added information she had garnered from letters and interviews following the magazine presentation.
Her whole object was to present the facts without sentimentalizing over them. They should, she felt, be given fully and truthfully to the public. She struggled to keep her writing free from the mystery with which, she felt, writers were prone to surrounded drug addiction and to discuss it, so far as possiblel as a deplorable and disgusting habit, one in which the addicts could be pitied and controlled. It was her responsibility to give these facts to the public, leaving it to make its own deductions.
There were, however, certain recommendations she made which were echoed in the press, among women's organizations, and from the public platform, for many years.
She asked for hospitals to cure drug addiction, and urged that institutional treatment be available in every province.
Penalties should be more severe, with the option of a fine withdrawn.
All drugs should be procured from the Government, and a record kept of every grain from the time it left the importer until it reached the ultimate consumer.
She felt that the practice of some physicians in prescribing narcotics in large quantities for their patients, to be administered by themselves, was unwise. Moreover, the Criminal Code was too indefinite, and gave doctors too wide a privilege in prescribing drugs. There were those who were thus enabled to dispense drugs, yet slip out of any conviction when brought before the court.
But above and beyond all her practical suggestions, was her compelling reiteration of the need for education. Until the people knew fully where the menace lay, what the symptoms were, how youth was ensnared, and to what an extent the vicious traffic was increasing, there was little hope of staying it.
She had dedicated The Black Candle to the members of the "Rotary, Kiwanis and Gyro Clubs, and to the White Cross Associations who are rendering valiant service in impending the spread of drug addiction. Following its publication she worked with them vigorously to increase their educational program. In all her associations with women's clubs, and welfare organizations, she pounded home the need for an active, unrelenting fight against the traffic. There was no subject, she reminded them, upon which philanthropy could better expend its forces, than to the education on the addiction, disease, and the humane help possible to its sufferers.
She had the satisfaction of seeing very definite results following the publication of The Black Candle, symbolic, in its title, of the opium pipe. Not only were its contents the focal point for a nation-wide resurgence of public education, but the material she had assembled was in countless ways. The Secretariat of the League of nations ordered a great many copies, one for each member of its committees interested, in any way, in the traffic in narcotics. Provincial Departments of Justice, in many instances circularized the magistrates within their jurisdiction urging penalties that were more severe. statutes in many provinces were amended to include some of their recommendations.
Its impact on her personal life, too, was manifold. A prominent American working in Europe recommended that Emily be added to the Advisory Committee of the League of Nations on the Opium Section. Sir Robert Borden, who was president of the Canadian League of nations, asked her to serve on one of the committees. She was also invited, together with practically all the governors of the Western States, to sit on the advisory committee of the White Cross Association in Seattle. Emily herself spoke in practically every province on the traffic in narcotics.
Mrs. Wallace Reid, following the much-publicized death of her movie star husband, planned to use The Black Candle as the basis for a film, and came to Edmonton to discuss it with Emily. The film company concerned, interviewed T. R. Ferguson in Toronto, but the matter was never cleared, It was Emily's secret opinion that her brother's grandiose idea of what the film rights were worth, had discouraged the promoters of the idea. T.R. had checked her manuscript carefully for her and, in writing to her about it, illustrated, again, the close brotherly devotion there was between the family. "I thought," he wrote, "how many a time you must have laid your pen aside, utterly wearied mentally and physically. Disheartened too. You have handled a monumental subject in a masterly way. I am more than proud of you."
The book, signed by "Judge Emily Murphy", with "Janey Canuck" this time in brackets beneath, received a world-wide press approval of the critics for its effective handling of an appalling subject. In it, however, Janey Canuck, and her delicate craftsmanship, were not much in evidence. This was Judge Murphy slashing hard at a seemingly hopeless problem, urging reforms in the face of a disinterested careless public.
She knew, however, that she had accomplished much of what she had hoped, and kept to her crusade, year after year. Among her papers, whens she died, were some unfinished articles on the drug traffic; but in revealing its danger to the people and in stirring up some positive educational action, Emily Murphy knew she could count her work a success.
One doctor in California criticized the book on petty grounds. Emily came back in fine fettle in a letter with five pages of single-spaced typewritten argument. In it is this sentence:
"The Black Candle deals with the moral, physical, mental, social, curative, legal, criminal, punitive, causative, historical, tragical, medical, financial, and even grimly humorous phases of the subject. There is absolutely no other book which does this."

pp. 206, 211 Emily Murphy Crusader by Byrn Hope Sanders (1945)

Emily Murphy, drugs, prohibition, canada, history, 1900s
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