June 2nd, 1859
The Island’s June air was warm and heavy and as the winds shifted, the police constable halted his stride...he had been followed. The rustle and friction of clothing against pasture could be heard as a dark figure ran through the long grass surrounding Craigflower Road. Two shots rang out and shattered the calm and desolate silence that filled the open space. The officer’s body slumped to the ground as the unknown assailant slinked back through the shadows from which he came.
No witnesses, one murdered Colonial Police Officer named Johnston Cochrane, and the prevalence of racial tension so thick it could be cut with a knife. Three suspects came to light and all were acquitted of the charge of murder and by June 21st, 1859 the case was closed and never solved.
Historically, the racialization of the Native population, as well as that of other minorities of the Colony of Vancouver Island was fueled by public opinion, local newspapers, and a newly fashioned ‘British influenced’ legal system. Using the murder of a Colonial Police Officer, and the subsequent trials in regards to the slaying, this website demonstrates that racism was not only in existence in the Colony of Vancouver Island in 1859, but was thriving. The specific historical relevance in regards to the murder of the Officer helps to “set the stage,” in order to reveal the veracity of blatant racist indignation that was expressed towards the treatment of colonized populations, as well as the racial minorities in Victoria during this period.
Placing the murder of Constable Johnston Cochrane at the center of the research, the identification of a persistent bitterness between the whites and the Indians, and the evidence of a rationality that existed to support the claims racial superiority, provide substance for the argument. Used as a medium for both the transference of misguided opinion and racial generalization, these public and governmental systems created and perpetuated the existing tensions experienced by different ethnic groups in early Victoria.
This website includes a collection of primary documents, newspaper articles, maps and photographs, which together attempt to explain the racial consciousness and subsequent actions of the inhabitants of Victoria of the Colony of Vancouver Island in 1859.