Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Canadian Wild West

"Here’s a statistic: between 1882, when reliable records started to be kept, and 1968, there were 4,743 lynchings recorded in the United States. In Canada, during this same eighty-six-year period, there was one."
"The Lynching of Louie Sam", John Vaillant, The Walrus, December 2008

The one Canadian lynching was that of Louie Sam, a fourteen year old Sto:lo boy arrested for killing an American settler. He was apprehended north of the border and was en route to New Westminster, BC when he was kidnapped by a lynch mob. "It was at this point that a routine prisoner transfer started looking like a barroom collaboration between Agatha Christie and Louis L’Amour." (Vaillant)

And to think there was a time when I thought Canadian history was boring.

This all started because a young adult novel called The Lynching of Louie Sam was a finalist for the Arthur Ellis Awards. The story looks at the historical event through the eyes of a white boy whose father was one of the lynch mob. I needed to get a blurb for the Cool Canadian Crime Arthur Ellis Special and founded the quote on lynching statistics. As often happens with me, more research followed.

The Walrus article suggests that "The case of Louie Sam illustrates that the difference between “peace, order, and good government” and “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” is not superficial; it cuts to the bone." This got me wondering, did Canada have a wild west?

Oh yeah! We had our fill of home-grown and visiting outlaws. We even exported a few outlaws and law officers across the border.

Stay tuned.


Jacquie Rogers said...

One, eh? And it happened just a few hours north of here. Who knew? I'm looking forward to your next post!

Meg said...

Hmm. Interesting indeed.

Ginger Simpson said...

One. How barbaric. *lol* Great post. Enjoyed it.

Caroline Clemmons said...

There is no justification for hanging a 14 yo boy, but I know it happened.

Alison E. Bruce said...

Just one lynching on Canadian soil between 1882 and 1968. Before 1882 they didn't keep reliable records, but I have to wonder if there was a lynching in Canada in 1969.

If there is, I haven't found it yet.

Anonymous said...

Makes the U.S. look mighty violent. Fascinating story, Allison.

Ellen O'Connell said...

I know the relative population for U.S./Canada is so different that you'd expect Canadian numbers to be much lower, but 1 to 4743? No slavery, Civil War, and Reconstruction had to contribute. Why is it only sad but not surprising that Canada's one was a native boy.

Alison E. Bruce said...

We had plenty of outlaws and racial tension in Canada, but we also have a different mindset. The author of the Walrus article I quoted compared US and Canada to fraternal twins. Same parents, many shared characteristics, but not alike.

Ciara Gold said...

I definitely want to read more from your research. Your blog post has me hooked. Fascinating. I never gave much though to Canada and the west mainly because I live so close to Mexico and their "western" history is intertwined with that of Texas. Fixing to go poking around myself now. Thanks so much for stirring my curiosity.