680 THE ADVOCATE
VOL. 77 PART 5 SEPTEMBER 2019
Many crimes were dealt with by the community without the intervention
of any authority. It was hard to get away with much when the entire footprint
of a community of 3,000 people occupied an area of less than one
square kilometer. If you did something that the community did not approve
of, whether it was criminal or not, the whole town would soon know and
the embarrassment and shame of that knowledge were punishment
enough. In a small town, familiarity in some cases bred contempt. It was a
contempt that you dealt with and survived—or gave up and headed out of
town on the next boat or floatplane.
Despite the fact that the altercation between Mr. Cromarty and Mr. Monteith
was the subject of public litigation in both the criminal and the civil
courts, and that it was Mr. Monteith who paid the price of a guilty plea, a
criminal record, and a civil judgment for $517, it would be difficult to say
which of the two came out ahead in the court of public opinion in Ocean
Virtually all of the judicial proceedings in Ocean Falls took place in Police
Court, which today is known as the Provincial Court of British Columbia –
Criminal Division. Police Court was presided over by a local stipendiary
magistrate. The prosecutions were handled by the local RCMP. The magistrate
was usually a man of good character and good judgment, universally
respected in the community but not legally trained. He was paid on a caseby
case basis, and then only if there was a guilty plea or a finding of guilt.
Most of the cases in Police Court involved alcohol: petty assaults that
were not as serious as Cromarty v. Monteith, charges under the Liquor Act of
supplying alcohol to a minor, or the rare charge under the Motor Vehicle Act
involving cars and liquor.
The Vanatter family, with feet both in the press and the town’s legal
structure, had a lock on the most-read sections of the Ocean Falls Advertiser.
Gossip was the Advertiser’s mainstay, as it was with most of the social discourse
of the town. The most-read column was “A Bitta Ditta Datta”, written
by Mrs. Isabel Vanatter. It featured the comings and goings of the people of
Ocean Falls: who had a visitor from downtown, who had become a grandmother,
and so on.
On the heels of “A Bitta Ditta Datta” in popularity was the Advertiser’s
“Police Court News”. Much of Mrs. Vanatter’s information came from her
husband, Roy Vanatter, the stipendiary magistrate of Ocean Falls Police
Court. The names of the participants in Police Court, both the guilty and the
not guilty, along with the sentences given out by Mr. Vanatter, set tongues
wagging in the coffee shop after they had finished discussing Mrs. Vanatter’s
gossip. A short-lived attempt to stifle the “Police Court News” was