Daniel Francis

Reading the National Narrative

Slavery and North Vancouver

Aug 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.