Saturday, January 15, 2011

Canada Calling: Strange Canadian Crimes

Since a lot of us are stuck indoors this weekend due to winter weather, here's a short quiz about notorious Canadian crimes to wile away the time. Some of these are stranger than you can possibly imagine. As promised, I've added the answers.

Ezra Allen Miner, an American criminal, moved to British Columbia at the beginning of the 1900s. In 1904 he committed a crime that had been committed only once before in Canada. What was that crime?
A. Bank robbery
B. Train robbery
C. Forging a Canadian $20 bill
D. Blowing up a government building

Ezra was better known as Bill Miner. Reputed to be a very polite robber, he’s credited with the phrase, “Hands up.” The usual previous admonishment, at least by British highwaymen was, “Stand and deliver.” For a long time it was thought that Miner’s 1904 train robbery was the first in Canada. Recent scholarship has uncovered a previous train robbery thirty years earlier in Ontario. Miner escaped from jail in British Columbia and made it back across the U. S. border. He died in Georgia.

Between January 14 and February 17, 1932, a posse of Royal Canadian Mountain Police officers, Inuit and Gwich’in guides, and a World War I pilot name Wop May pursued a man named Albert Johnson through the Northwest Territories and the Yukon. News of the pursuit and Johnson’s eventual death went around the world by radio. What name did the media give Johnson?
A. The Angel of the North
B. The American Jessie James
C. The Snow Ghost
D. The Mad Trapper

Albert Johnson remains a mystery. No one knows if that was his real name or an alias and even recent DNA examination hasn’t shed any light on where he came from. Throughout the multiple confrontations with police and the extended manhunt, Johnson never spoke a word. He critically wounded two men and killed an R.C.M.P. constable before being fatally shot.

The Canadian play, Blood on the Moon by Ottawa actor/playwright Pierre Brault dramatizes what trial?
A. A civil lawsuit brought by Irish navvies against the Canadian Pacific Railroad for unsafe working conditions.
B. A class action suit, brought by the Chinese Friendship Society of Greater Vancouver to strike down the law that required Chinese men to pay a head tax in order to bring their wives to Canada.
C. Of Patrick J. Whelen, for the murder of Thomas D’Arcy McGee, a member of the Canadian parliament.
D. Of Paul Rose, for the murder of Minister Pierre LaPorte during the October 1970 FLQ crisis in Quebec.

McGee and Whelen were both Irish Catholics, but their views on Irish independence and the Fenians differed. McGee was shot by an unknown assailant on the night of April 7, 1868. Whelan was arrested; the evidence against him was circumstantial, centering around a hand gun that he owned, but he was convicted and hung. His was the last public hanging in Canada and was viewed by about 5,000 people.

What unfortunate incident happened to the writer Robert Service while he was composing The Shooting of Dan McGrew?
A. His entire manuscript, his notes, and his lunch was stolen. Service is quoted as saying he regretted the missing lunch most of all.
B. He was sued by a Whitehorse clergyman name D. N. McGrew, who felt that the poem was about him and that Service had impugned his character.
C. Since he had a habit of walking down the street and not paying attention while writing, he fell in a large hole and broke his arm.
D. He was shot at by the guard in the bank where he worked because the guard, hearing Service reciting under his breath about guns and shooting, thought he was robbing the bank.

Service would work on his poetry at the bank during his lunch break. A guard mistook Service reading aloud for a bank robbery in progress and fired a shot at Service. Fortunately he missed and Service went on to finish writing his poem.

Ferdinand W. Demara committed what crime involving the Canadian military?
A. He impersonated a military trauma surgeon on His Majesty’s Canadian Ship Cayuga, including performing successful operations.
B. He stole a tank from Canadian Forces Base Gagetown and attempted to run over his ex-brother-in-law.
C. He embezzled over a million dollars through fake government contracts supposedly awarded by the Department of National Defense.
D. He forged a Victoria Cross, supposedly awarded to his father during World War II, and sold the fake through Sotherby’s Auction House.

Ferdinand Demara was a man of many talents, at least in his own mind. He stepped into a new role at will, impersonating a civil engineer, a sheriff's deputy, an assistant prison warden, a doctor of applied psychology, a hospital orderly, a lawyer, a child-care expert, a Benedictine monk, a Trappist monk, an editor, a cancer researcher, and a teacher.

During the Korean War he impersonated Canadian surgeon Joseph C. Cyr. A speed reader with a photographic memory, Demara read through surgical texts immediately before he performed surgery. All of his patients lived.

His career as “Dr. Cyr” ended with Cyr’s mother read a newspaper article that mentioned her son. She knew that he had been working in New Brunswick at the time the article said he was on the Cayuga. She immediately contacted the Canadian Navy. Strangely enough, the Navy did not press charges and Demara went back to the U.S., where he continued other impersonations for years. He finally became a hospital chaplain with real credentials from an Oregon bible college. In his role as chaplain he administered last rites to his friend, the actor Steve McQueen.

Thomas Scott’s death (March 4, 1870) prompted what response by the government of Canada?
A. Private police officers for the Canadian Pacific Railway were authorized to carry guns for the first time.
B. Prime Minister John A. MacDonald dispatched the Wolseley Expedition to quell the Red River Rebellion.
C. The Northwest Mounted Police were founded.
D. The Ottawa City Police were required to fire any constabulary officer who came to work intoxicated.

Louis Riel was Métis (a person of mixed First Nations and European parentage) from the Red River Settlement (now Manitoba). He opposed the influx of Anglophone Protestants into the Red River, which had historically belonged to First Nations people and French-speaking, Catholic Métis. Riel created a provisional government with equal representation from both French and English communities.

Thomas Scott was a Protestant Orangeman who opposed that government. Scott threatened to kill Riel. For that Riel’s provisional government tried him. Riel gave the order for him to be executed by firing squad.

In response the government of Canada sent Colonel Garnet Wolseley with a military force to put down the Red River Rebellion. Fifteen years after Scott died, Riel was arrested, tried, and hung for treason. Many contended that his death was payback for having given the order to execute Scott.


Mason Canyon said...

Looking forward to the answers to these. Very intriguing crimes.

Thoughts in Progress

Katreader said...

I've heard of one of these crimes...but for the life of me can't remember the answer. I look forward to being enlightened.

Anonymous said...

I think they're going to rescind my history degree - or my citizenship. This is fun, though I only know one answer. Looking forward to reading the others.

Anonymous said...

I'll post the answers mid-afternoon (Calgary time), unless I get delayed at work.

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