Canadian Money and the Strange Case of Justice Jekyll and Ms. Hyde

It seems that they’ve just announced that the “Famous Five” are going to be on the new Canadian fifty-dollar bill. This includes Justice Emily Murphy.

For those of you who don’t know Canadian History, or have even seen Murphy’s “Heritage Minute,” Justice Murphy was the tireless sufragette, who went to the British privy council with four others (the “Famous Five”) to clarify that women were to be considered “persons” under British law throughout the Empire, and thus having more or less the same rights as men.

Murphy was the first female police magistrate in Alberta, and the first female Canadian Senator. She has a couple of statues built for her, and a park already honouring her legacy.

However, Emily Murphy was leading a double life. Under the pen name of Janey Canuck, she wrote white supremicist tracts for Maclean’s Magazine (!), collected in a book called “The Black Candle”. She argued that marijuana (or “marihuana” as she spelt it) should be banned because it was used by “orientals” and “negros” to weaken “whites.”

(I hope the mods will show some leniency. I’m not certain whether it would violate the rules on linking to hate literature to link to the book this excerpt is from; a link is available via the Wikipedia article linked to above. But I feel a line should be quoted to show how extreme this woman’s racism was – that she wasn’t just “racist, like everyone in those days.”)

That’s one representative example. Murphy was considered so racist, even by the standards of her time, that it once became an issue in one of her court cases, where the lawyer argued that she could not possibly sit in judgment of a case involving a person of Asian descent.

I’m not suggesting we raze her statues or rename the park. Do we really heap further honour on someone whose beliefs near those of the Nazis?

While Justice Murphy had pretty odious racial views, did the rest of the Famous Five? Michael Platt says they did, but his article focuses on Murphy. I’m not sure that I see a problem with it, as all five of them are going to be on the bill. If it were just Murphy on the bill herself, it might be different, but all five of them being on makes it clear that they’re on there due to the Person Case and their work for women’s rights (while, ironically, Murphy, at least, was willing to deny rights to other segments of society).

…along with Thérèse Casgrain.

While I agree that she shouldn’t be on the bill by herself, as a group of five it seems fine to me. Having the entire bunch there makes it pretty clear what specific memory is being honored.

It’s an unfortunate fact that many of the people responsible for the positive developments in our society had odious views on race and genetics. Even Tommy Douglas advocated eugenics in his youth, a crime Platt accuses the FF of. It ain’t where you are, it’s the direction you’re going in, and it’s impossible to argue that the FF didn’t push Canadian society forward.

A very good argument, RickJay. But I think a lot of people are still going to be very uncomfortable with her being there, especially when the other side will be Mackenzie King’s face, and his record when it comes to race is hardly fantastic. Plus, there’s been such an effort to whitewash Murphy’s reputation lately, and that effort has generated a backlash.

I haven’t been able to find how the Five are going to portrayed. Maybe if it’s some scene directly related to the Persons Case, it’ll drive the point home that this is about one half of her legacy, but I doubt it’ll put the issue to rest.

One of the most revered American judges, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, was a proponent of eugenics and the forced sterilization of the retarded, memorably writing “Three generations of imbeciles is enough.” But it’s not for that that he is remembered. I suggest that a sense of mercy that focuses on the good things that Justice Emily Murphy accomplished, and not on her racist attitudes, may be indicated.

The question arises, by the way – how many people of the races she was phobic about did she know? Was she buying into someone else’s scare tactics? I’ve seen a lot of good-hearted Christians believing the BS spread by some of the anti-gay “ministries” – because they don’t know (or don’t realize they know) any gay people that would show them differently.

While we’re at it, do you think we could have some arguments for ditching Mackenzie King and Robert Borden? Their main reason for being on the bills is that their mandates fell during the World Wars. Certainly, as far as I know, neither was particularly inspiring.

(For the record, Hamish is referring above to the Japanese internment camps and the “one is too many” policy on Jewish immigration during World War II.)

I would suggest that Pearson would be a good replacement for one of them (medicare, Nobel Peace Prize, decriminalizing homosexuality); Trudeau, though certainly the most inspiring prime minister to a good segment of society, would cause the other half to burn down the Bank of Canada (besides which, it would kind of result in a Grit imbalance.) Perhaps Diefenbaker? He was a good Tory PM.

Everybody loves Terry Fox, of course, and he might make a good break from the politicians (and the Queen). Louis Riel’s star is rising these days, and adding an aboriginal (and Francophone, and Westerner) would be good, but depending on your point of view he has that whole insurrection/killing settlers problem.

Sheesh, this is hard.

Diefenbaker was kind of a nut. So was Riel. Pearson is already on the fifty, isn’t he?

Hamish, I really don’t think it’s true that many people will be uncomfortable with Murphy being there, for the simple reason that very few Canadians know who Emily Murphy was, and a very small percentage of those who do will know her record on racism. The number of Canadians actually aware of all this is, I am confident in guessing, less than half of one percent of the population. If you can put someone on the money and piss off that few people, you’re doing well.

If it were up to me:

$5 - Laurier
$10 - Trudeau
$20 - MacDonald
$50 - Pearson
$100 - The most famous and beloved Canadian of all: Gretzky. Let’s accept reality.

No, that would be WLMK (on both the old and new $50.)

COME ON !!! WLMK held spiritualist seances to contact the spirit of his dead dog. Such looniness deserves to be honoured ! :smiley:

And RickJay, since Gretzky is still alive, I would propose Maurice “Rocket” Richard on the $100

Borden did do a lot for independent Canadian soverignty, both by getting Britain to acknowledge that Dominions should have a voice in foreign policy, and getting Canada a seat at the Paris peace talks. So, that’s something, at least.

And domestically, King did get old age pensions, unemployment insurance, and family allowances passed

Heck, putting a racist on currency is nothing new. We put Woodrow “Peckerwood” Wilson on the $100,000 bill and that cracker was as racist as they come.