Echoes Of The Past


It has often been said that “those who don’t study history, are doomed to repeat it.”

I have had an interest in history stemming all the way back to when I was in high school. My high school history teacher was a grouchy old cuss, yet he somehow made the information interesting, and it was my favourite class in school, although english did come in a close second.

As part of the irregular column that I do for my local paper, I was doing some research in the newspaper archives, from when our neighbouring town was formed, in 1911. In going through the early years of the community, my friend and I came across an interesting and amusing (in my opinion anyway) story.

When the town was formed, a contract was signed with the Northwest Mounted Police  (Precursor to our RCMP) and a constable was assigned to the area. As the constable had a significant area which to cover, the town hired a Chief Constable, for in town law enforcement. The first constable, a gentleman by the name of Abbott, was also one of the first to be charged under the law. In May of 1913, during an incident at an “alleged house of ill-fame”, (read: brothel, you can not make this up) the constable was alleged to have carelessly made use of his firearm.  He was subsequently forced to resign, and a new Constable was hired.  That should have been the end of this black mark in history. However, the story continues.  In December of the same year, Mr. Abbott petitioned the town, and somehow managed to get his job back as Chief Constable.

One would think that after one incident, an individual being given a second chance would step up their game. However, barely two weeks after being reinstated as Chief Constable of the community, Mr. Abbott was facing charges of extortion, involving another incident at the “Chinese restaurant”, which also served as a hotel, and allegedly, a brothel. The complaint against Abbott stated that on an evening after he was reinstated, he presented himself to the hotel, demanding access to a particular room. After the room was opened, reports are there were two people caught in a compromising position. Mr. Abbott entered the room, closed it behind him and stayed for approximately four hours, upon which time he exited, then demanded the owner of the establishment pay him $10 (equivalent to $250 today) in order for him to remain quiet about what happened, and threatened charging the owner, where if the case went to court, the owner would likely be facing a charge of $50. The owner declined and reported Mr. Abbott. The town launched an investigation of Mr. Abbott, where, when he was asked about the events of that night in question, he responded by saying that the four hours in the room was spent conducting interviews of the man and the woman in the room, and denied the extortion charge. Less than a month later, the special investigation concluded that the charges were proven, and Abbott was fired again.

That was where I concluded my research for the day, so I don’t know if there was anymore to the story, however what was found was amusing enough. But, what’s the point of this story?

There is a couple of conclusions that can be drawn here. The first goes back to the premise that I started with. Those who don’t study history are doomed to repeat it. Yes, the 1910’s were a different time than today, and we do have the benefit of hindsight, but, in this situation above, the constable in question was found to be lacking in the morals department, yet he was rehired anyway. Good decision or bad decision? At the time nobody knew, and I am definitely not against second chances. However, those second chances need to be weighed against temperament. Was this individual a right fit for the position of enforcing the law? Considering the lack of information surrounding his first offence at the brothel, I don’t know. That said, being fired and then rehired does seem like a questionable decision in my mind. Again, not learning from the past.

The second conclusion drawn is that while hearing about police and government corruption seems to be never-ending in today’s day and age of social media, it is, sadly, not a new development of our civilization. It goes right back to the days when settlers were coming over from England. And sadly, our justice system and laws are less about right and wrong, and more about how much can we get away with without getting caught. The politicians in both Washington and Ottawa are prime examples of this.

What is my point with all of this? It is quite simply that bad behaviour begets bad behaviour. By not holding our elected officials to task for indiscretions, we set ourselves up for more of the same. We need to learn from the past, to steer our futures.

This ties in to mental health as well. I fully agree that the definition of insanity is continuing to do the same things expecting different results, instead of learning from the past mistakes, and steering our futures accordingly. Learn from what works, and what doesn’t. When you do that, your self imposed walls will begin to come down.




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