Daniel Francis

Reading the National Narrative

New Gallery in North Vancouver

December 3, 2017

I've just been down getting my first look at the Polygon Gallery which opened on the waterfront in North Vancouver a couple of weeks ago. The inaugural show inside this gorgeous space is called N. Vancouver and features a collection of photographs, installations and artifacts reflecting the North Vancouver experience.

My favourite piece in the show, because I've recently become interested in the history of squatting, is a large photo by Stan Douglas, "Lazy Bay," recreating the famous community of squatters at Cates Park. Famous because one of its residents was the English novelist Malcolm Lowry. The other residents were mainly fishermen and labourers looking for cheap digs. The authorities bulldozed and burned most of the ramshackle dwellings in the 1950s. That's right; Douglas has managed to make a photograph of something that no longer exists.

Anyway, if I had to summarize the main theme of the Polygon show it would be Lost Eden. So many of the photos show natural landscapes bespoiled by industrial structures of one kind or another. Which is one way of thinking about North Vancouver's history. It is a community which identifies strongly with the natural environment, yet has a legacy of over-exploitation and destruction when it comes to the watersheds and the waterfront. This conflicted history is part of what I saw in the exhibit, which continues until the end of April.

November 26, 2017


A wonderful week in Ottawa included a visit to Parliament Hill to watch question period -- an unedifying experience -- and culminated in the Berton medal ceremony at Rideau Hall, an opportunity to meet the new Governor General. Above, the two of us share a grip 'n grin.

Thanks to Canada's History Society, not just for the award but for all the work it does promoting an...

November 8, 2017


It was announced this morning that I have received the Pierre Berton Award for 2017, aka the Governor General's History Award for Popular Media (try saying that three times with your mouth full).

Details here.

I'll be in Ottawa in a couple of...

October 14, 2017

Last week CBC Radio called to invite me onto a noon call-in segment to discuss the re-naming of Siwash Rock in particular and the question of place names in general. Being preoccupied with rehab (see below) I could not accept the invitation but if I had I might have suggested to listeners that they ask themselves: What would Major...

October 7, 2017


This space has been silent lately as I recover from knee replacement surgery. Rehab is a fulltime job.

Back soon. In the meantime, Happy Thanksgiving from the wet coast.

September 6, 2017

The Ormsby Review has just published my review of a new book about history, car culture and landscape in British Columbia. Check it out here.