Thursday, November 13, 2014

Montreal's First Chinese Policeman

Montreal Standard, 12 January 1907, page 16.

Montreal’s Chinatown accepts the installation of the new Chinese policeman as an official recognition of the dignity and importance of the district. It is as great a matter to crow over as if a Celestial had been elected alderman in the City Council.
“Oh, yeth, we have policeman now. He” – with a swell of pride – “he carry revolver and baton, too!”

Chinatown is having much to play with the new toy. Fan-tan has for the nonce lost a little of its absorbing interest. All sorts of tiny troubles are taken to the policeman for arbitration, and he is expected to be a library of miscellaneous information, while if some Chinamen are having a little wordy spar at 3 am, another Chinaman will bolt round, waken up the policeman, and gravely inform him that there is a stupendous case on hand, and that it would be wisdom to telephone for the patrol wagon and a detachment of constabulary, and to bring the revolver.

While Chinatown on the whole, accepts the policeman as a compliment, a safeguard, an oracle, and an encyclopaedia, there are a few individuals who regard him as an unwarrantable burden and a traitor to his nationality. These few are the hobos of Chinatown, the men with the gorilla faces, who carry the little hatchet in the belt, and whose deeds are dark. That a Chinaman should assume the role of police constable over fellow-countrymen in a white man’s land is unmanly, vicious, treacherous. Wait!

Lee Johnson, the constable in question, accepts all with that bland smile of his. He knows that as a constable he should be dignified on all occasions – but he can’t keep his enthusiasm from bubbling over at times. He may be reserved at first. It is “yes,” and “no,” and “perhaps,” and “don’t know.” Gradually he melts. The he chuckles and tells with voluminous detail the story of the first Chinaman arrested for drunkenness in Montreal.

Johnson is a man of considerable intelligence, and speaks English and French in addition to his own tongue. His father was the principle of a village school in the Province of Canton, and Lee came to Canada 12 years ago, when 17 years of age. He has been in business, particularly the laundry business, in various parts of the country, and now represents in addition to law and authority, a number of firms dealing with the Chinese in Montreal.

He dresses like an ordinary white, and in his little office on St Urbain street, close to Lagauchetiere street, and right in the heart of Chinatown, he has a roll top desk and a telephone, to both of which the attention of the visitor is tactfully drawn. The rest of the office is perhaps a little at odds with the rolltop desk and the telephone, but that does not matter.

Asked whether he will be expected to lay information about, and take part in raids on opium and gambling dens, Lee shrugs his shoulders, and smiles, and talks about the weather. Whisked back to the original subject by the interrogator. Lee will speak at great length of the law regarding the opium traffic, but never by any chance commit himself. Once thoroughly thawed he will say that “most Chinamen like him, but two or three wastrel – bum bom, you call it? – Chinamen don’t like.” But he says nothing of fear and apprehension.

It is said that the need of a Chinese policeman in Chinatown was badly felt. Whether the appointment of one is going to make an improvement along certain lines, remains to be seen. In the meantime, it can be said that Constable Lee Johnson is intelligent and enthusiastic.


Interestingly, I can't find the Montreal Standard in Google Newspapers to back this up, but by the tone of the article, it was more tabloid than broadsheet. This may make it a great means of exposing players to more sensational reports of the weird and the bizarre, and other adventure hooks and red herrings.

Ok, so the tone of the era shines through in what is rather blatant racism in the original journalism, but this gives a little insight into the culture of the time. Especially on the existence of gambling an opium dens in Chinatown, and that this was seen as a problem for other Montrealers.

I want to hear more about these Hatchet Hobos of Chinatown. What were they? were they local enforcers, used to their own way of keeping law, either for the population, or the gangs, of those who held power in Chinatown? Were they really hobos, and the axes were for self defence? I love these guys. The adventure title "Hatchet Hobos of Chinatown" seems very pulpy in tone but it surely must be written!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Origins of Montreal's Criminals

Want to know where the criminals live in Montréal? Where are the hoods? Well now you can find out. Stats have been taken from three correctional institutions in Québec, Bordeaux Prison, Rivière-des-Prairie Institution, and Centre de Detention Tanguay. The data shows us where those convicted originate from. In terms of Montréal, this can give an insight into the origins of the criminal element in terms of which parts of Montréal they live in. This is not a map of where crimes are commited, that's a completely different map.

The three hot-spots, or hoods, on the Island of Montreal are Montréal-Nord, Saint-Michel and Hochelaga. To those that live in town, that will come as no great surprise. The other hot-spots in the province not around the town of Montreal (which considering the percentage of the population of Quebec that live in the area, it's no surprise the majority come from in or near the city) are in the north of the Province, which, considering the economics of the area, again is of no great surprise to anyone.

The map also includes those incarcerated who come from from outside of Quebec. Apart from 1 from Ontario and 1 from New-Brunswick, there are a couple of red spots in the north of Nunavut. I don't know if this is due to lack of sizeable correctional facilities in Nunavut, or just that these people came to live in Montreal for socio-economic reasons. I suspect the latter.

The full article, and interactive map can be found here (in French)(source in English).

Rather a neat little tool for GMs looking to know where to send his Investigators when they're looking for someone of a lower Credit Rating, or skills of a more dubious legal nature.