EdTo protest her slavery and pending sale, a black slave burnt down her master's house in Montreal. Unfortunately for Marie-Joseph-Angelique, the fire spread and destroyed 46 houses including a historic church. First sentenced to have her hands cut off and be burnt alive, she appealed the conviction and her sentence was "reduced" to death by hanging. This was typical of the harsh justice then meted out not only in the colonies, but also in Europe. Even in 1824, an 18-year old New brunswick boy was "hung by the neck until dead" for having stolen 24¢. In Upper Canada, theft can mean being branded with a red-hot iron on the palm of the hand or a public whipping.



Slavery of blacks was prevalent in New France. After the 1759 conquest by England, slavery was protected in the surrender documents. Even by 1766, English Governor Murray owned slaves. It would be 1793 before Upper Canada began phasing out slavery. In 1800, the Chief Justice of Lower Canada James Monck ruled that slavery was illegal on the legal grounds that a British law dated 1797 had prohibited all slavery legislation. The legal argument was apparently flawed. In 1834, the British government formally abolished slavery in the Empire. Racism was not restricted to blacks either. The legislature was surprised by the election, in 1808, of a Jew, Ezekial Hart. Hart made the mistake of wearing his religion on his sleeve. For example, he insisted on omitting "in the year of our Lord" when dating documents. When he was sworn in a member of the Lower Canada assembly, he replaced the word "Christian" with "Jewish" in the text of his oath of member. Hart was re-elected, took the proper oath. When the assembly resolved to expel him again, the Governor dissolved the assembly and called an election.



Cruel and unusual punishment was rare except for treason. For example, on July 21, 1797, an American spy, David McLane was publicly hung, his stomach cut open and his head cut off. McLane's arguments, that he could not be convicted of treason since he was not a citizen of His Majesty, the King of England, fell on deaf ears.