I would sooner see a man go around and murder people outright than have him peddling this sort of thing [cocaine]. It is apparently the greatest danger and menace against which we must contend. Once addicted to the habit, a man is never cured and is no longer a human being but a beast.
(Sanders, Calgary Herald, 15 Jan 1913, 12)
Born in Yale, British Columbia on 25 December 1863, Gilbert Edward Sanders was a graduate of the Royal Military College and a Calgary police magistrate. A former Northwest Mounted Police inspector, he was also a veteran of the 1885 Rebellion and the Boer War, where he won the D.S.O. Notorious for his harsh sentences, corporal punishment and blatant bigotry, Sanders once remarked, “the cells were the proper abode for many of the coloured men.”
Sanders had retired from the NWMP in 1911 to become police magistrate in Calgary. In early 1915, he stepped away from the bench to join the 2nd Pioneer Battalion under the command of Lieutenant Colonel W. M. Davis. With his large white moustache and trademark monocle, Sanders looked the part of a model imperial officer.
After Davis was injured in a riding accident while training in England, Sanders led the battalion to France in March 1916. The fifty-three year old remained in command for the next seventeen months. In August 1917, he decided to resign his post in order to make room for a younger man. Thirty-nine year old Major C. W. Allen replaced him. The Vancouver Daily Sun observed, “The truism that ‘youth will be served’ applies to the business of war as well as to sport.”
Sanders returned to the Calgary police court in 1919 to dispense his form of punitive and sometimes brutal justice. By the time he retired in 1932, he had presided over 80,000 cases from minor offenses to capital crimes.
He died in Calgary on 19 April 1955.