Daniel Francis

Reading the National Narrative

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Slavery and North Vancouver

August 10, 2022

Since last year August 1 has been recognized as Emancipation Day in Canada, commemorating the abolition of slavery. I hadn't seen the relevance for British Columbia. Slavery was not practised here (except by Indigenous people but that is a different story). Indeed, many Black people came here in the colonial period to escape the slave masters south of the border.

But I had not considered the possible connections my own community, North Vancouver, has to the slave trade. Recently North Shore resident Guy Heywood revealed that he had been doing some genealogical research. Guy is related to one of the "founding families" of North Van, and it turns out that an ancestor was one of the investors who purchased much of the land that became the City of North Vancouver in 1907. Prior to that, back in England, the family had invested in, and profited from, slavery. (You can read about Guy's research in this article from the North Shore News.) So the implication is that North Van's beginnings are tangled up in the global slave trade. 

Guy's revelation led to a recent Zoom talk by June Francis, a professor at Simon Fraser University. The presentation, which was sponsored by the North Vancouver librairies, addresses the history of slavery and its contemporary relevance. It is now available on YouTube. Heywood and his wife Christene Best are included in the video, which makes for provocative viewing.

July 25, 2022

About three years ago I spent a fascinating afternoon touring Mount Pleasant with an ultra-knowledgeable guide, Christine Hagemoen. Mount Pleasant was pretty much the first residential suburb of Vancouver. Settlement began in the 1890s on either side of its commercial corridor, Main Street south of False Creek. As Christine explained, the community also developed around a creek, the evidence ...

July 4, 2022

The Sunday New York Times has an article about some of that city's long-ago literary hangouts. The White Horse Tavern where Dylan Thomas drank himself to death. The Algonquin Hotel where members of the Round Table exchanged witticisms. The Gumby Book Studio, a Harlem writers' salon. And others.

Every city has its gathering places where the artsy crowd like to hang out,...

June 27, 2022

I was disappointed last week to hear that the BC premier, John Horgan, was revisiting his government's plan to build a new provincial museum.

I understand that the $800-million project had become an anchor that was threatening to sink his political ambitions. The opposition, and the press, had successfully portrayed the rebuild as a boondoggle and a "vanity project". (Why are sports...

May 18, 2022

No point in having a blog if you don't use it to promote your friends' books.

Jim Marsh and I met at Carleton University in 1973; he was working in book publishing and I was doing a graduate degree. Not long after, Jim became the founding editor of The Canadian Encyclopedia, a hugely ambitious and hugely successful project initiated by Edmonton publisher Mel Hurtig.

Jim has...

May 8, 2022

A very nice review of my new book appears in the May issue of Literary Review of Canada

"As Francis skillfully demonstrates," writes reviewer Marisa Grizenko, "the place called Vancouver has always had a rich story -- if you know where to look and to whom to listen." You can read her piece in the pages of the magazine or it is...

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