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Detailing the lives of those working in the fishing fleet at the North Pacific Cannery Chan, Derrick Apr 30, 2013

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Detailing the Lives of Those Working in the Fishing Fleet At the North Pacific Cannery  Report prepared at the request of the North Pacific Cannery Heritage Site in partial fulfillment of UBC Geography: 429 Research in Historical Geography, for Dr. David Brownstein.  Derrick Chan April, 2013  1 ABSTRACT  The Pacific West Coast fishing industry was one of the largest economies at the turn of the 20th century. One cannery that contributed to the historic staple economy of British Columbia is the North Pacific Cannery Heritage Site. This paper examines the lives of those working in the fishing fleet at the North Pacific Cannery from 1900-1950. In doing so, this paper aims to provide a narrative for the fishermen and their connections to the developments that occurred within the fishing industry at the time. Such developments include the rise of the industry and the multitude of ethnic minorities that became fishermen for the North Pacific Cannery. Primary information was found through the University of British Columbia Special Collections and Archives fonds of the Anglo-British Columbia Company's records on the Cannery and through Professor Diane Newell's writings on Henry Doyle's fonds. Secondary resources were found through historical texts about the industry in British Columbia. This paper finds that the Japanese, Chinese and First Nations workforce at the cannery were pivotal to the success and growth of the British Columbia fishing industry by providing cheap, exploitable labor. Mechanization and technological change to fishing that occurred during the 1920s affected the fishing fleet at the North Pacific Cannery differently than the rest of the province. Northern rivers and canneries were slower to adopt technological change. Furthermore, world events such as World War II undoubtedly shaped the day-to-day live of fishermen at the Cannery in examples of anti-Orientalist legislation and the sentiments and discriminatory practices seen throughout the industry's history.  2 Introduction Pacific salmon fishing is an ancient industry steeped in the tradition of First Nation peoples. For thousands of years, the First Nations population fished along the coastal waters of the Pacific and its tributaries for food and trade purposes. The arrival of European traders in the 18th century led to the eventual expansion of the enterprise into industrialized activity the late 1800s.1 From the 1900s onwards, the British Columbia fishing industry accounted for more fish products than any other province in the nation, and while other industries such as mining and forestry contributed a larger portion of the market economy, fishing for all inhabitants in British Columbia was considered a heritage staple industry. In this essay I will examine and detail the lives of those working in the fishing fleet at the North Pacific Cannery from early twentieth century to the immediate post-World War II period. In doing so, this paper aims to provide a narrative for the fishermen and their connections to the developments that occurred within the fishing industry at the time.  The North Pacific Cannery The North Pacific Cannery was purchased by Henry Ogle Bell-Irving and the Anglo-British Columbia Packing Company in 1891 from the North Pacific Canning Company. Since 1891, it provided over one quarter of total salmon catches in British Columbia. Despite its isolated location on the Skeena River estuary, far from much of civilization, the cannery boasted some of the most consistent salmon products for 70 years that were exported worldwide. In 1902, Henry Doyle, a prominent canning magnate working for the British Columbia Packing Company, lauded the cannery for its quality produce and excellentl management.2 The cannery continued operations into the 1970s until it was finally bought by British Columbia Packers in 1980 and ceased operations. Today the North Pacific Cannery is the oldest remaining cannery on the Pacific Coast of North America and is considered a 1 Diane Newell, Development of the Pacific Salmon-Canning Industry: A Grown Man's Game, Montreal, 1989. p.10 2 Ibid. p.53  3 National Historic Site by Parks Canada.3 Diagram 1 below shows the location of the North Pacific Cannery situated on the mouth of the Skeena River.  Diagram 1: Map of Salmon Canning Districts on the Pacific Coast. The location of the North Pacific Cannery, on the mouth of the Skeena Estuary, is shown as the red star symbol. (Diane Newell, The Rationality of Mechanization in the Pacific Salmon-Canning Industry before the Second World War, The Business History Review, p. 634. Vol.62, 1988)  Racial Diversity and Employment at the Canneries The North Pacific Cannery, like most other canneries of British Columbia were ethnically diverse. This was due to the large influx of immigrants from different areas of the world and the First Nations people already inhabiting the coast for thousands of years prior. Hugh W. McKervill notes that during the Fraser Gold rush beginning in the 1850s, up to twenty thousand Chinese laborers made it to British 3 North Pacific Cannery National Historic Site, 2011  4 Columbia to work on the railroads for the Canadian Pacific Railway.4 Eventually the Chinese, who were constantly looking for work due to their subsistence wages, branched out into other industries such as the mining, lumber and fishing. Despite thousands of Chinese laborers coming to work at the canneries during the summer months, few actually participated in fishing.5 The Chinese, like the Japanese, were seen as an industrious race, representing “units of energy to be poured into the production pot”.6 Every cannery in British Columbia would come to have its “China House”. One hundred to two hundred Chinese men would fill cramped and unhygienic longhouses that acted as their quarters. McKervill likens the contract agreement between laborer and contractor to a “refined form of slavery”.7 A contractor from China would exploit their own laborers by agreeing with canneries on the prices for an estimated number of cases, then hire laborers to do work for as little as possible, making a handsome profit for himself. The exploitation of ethnic minorities would eventually become the name of the game for canneries on the Pacific West Coast, allowing the industry them to rapidly expand at low labor costs.  In 1877, the first Japanese immigrated to Canada. As work was plentiful in British Columbia, many Japanese entered the fishing, lumber and agricultural industries in the hopes of leaving behind the life of poverty back in Japan. It is difficult to trace the origins of the Japanese at the North Pacific Cannery and much of the rest of British Columbia. It is known that the majority of Japanese migrants congregated around Steveston, British Columbia and the surrounding Fraser River canneries.8 It is highly likely that following an over saturation of fishers in the Fraser River around the turn of the 4 Hugh, W. McKervill, The Salmon People: the Story of Canada's West Coast Salmon Fishing Industry, Vancouver, 1967. p.42 5 Douglas, C. Harris, Fish, Law and Colonialism: The Legal Capture of Salmon in British Columbia, Toronto, 2001.p.131 6 Hugh, W. McKervill, The Salmon People: the Story of Canada's West Coast Salmon Fishing Industry, Vancouver, 1967. p.44 7 Ibid. p.44 8 Alicja, Muszynski, Cheap Wage Labour: Race and Gender in the Fisheries of British Columbia, Montreal, 1996.p.86  5 century drove Japanese fishers to canneries up north in other rivers like the North Pacific Cannery. The Japanese soon became renowned for their fishing prowess shortly after their arrival at the canneries. As the Japanese were credited as hard-working and industrious at their work, riots began breaking out in Vancouver over the increasing involvement of “Oriental” people in the workforce. The Japanese and Chinese were turned into society's scapegoats due to their perceived difference from the rest of British Columbia. For decades, the Canadian government's views reflected that of its people: Asiatics were a growing problem. So by 1907, only four hundred Japanese immigrants were allowed into Canada annually.9  For over a century, between the years 1800 to 1919, First Nations fishing rights were under threat of being eliminated.10 The industrialization of fishing and canning by capitalism brought on by white Europeans threatened the historic fisheries of the First Nations people of the Pacific Coast. First Nations people had little choice but to participate in the the growing western-centric industries to further their own subsistence. First Nations people worked in the canneries and as fishermen. They also faced discrimination by whites, Japanese and Chinese. And they lived in squalor similar to the Chinese and Japanese. Generally, native women and children worked inside the canneries alongside the Chinese, gutting, cleaning and packaging the fish. First Nations men were allowed to partake in fishing, but of the two ethnic groups, the Japanese were considered the more efficient and industrious fishermen. The influx of Japanese-Canadian fishermen was threatening the job opportunities of First Nations fishermen. From the 1890s to the 1920s, Japanese and whites were the predominant ethnicities working the fishing lines. Following World War I however, an era of post-war anti-orientalism was on the rise in the fisheries and in the Canadian federal government. In the 1930s, Premiere of British Columbia, Thomas Dufferin Pattullo and the fisheries commission began dramatically reducing fishing 9 Ibid. p.86 10 Diane, Newell, Tangled Webs of History: Indians and the Law in Canada's Pacific Coast Fisheries, Toronto, 1993.p.103  6 licenses available to races other than whites and First Nations people.11 The British Columbia government aimed to completely eliminate the presence of people of Japanese, and to a smaller extent, Chinese ancestry by the end of the 1930s.12  Primary research for this paper was conducted through looking at the Anglo-British Columbia Company records for the North Pacific Cannery. Monthly payroll sheets document the monthly wages of employees of the cannery. These records are found in the Anglo-British Columbia Packers collection found at the University of British Columbia Special Collections. Exact wages can be difficult to extract from these records due to white labor being paid by the days of the month and ethnic minorities being paid by the hour. However, several trends are still apparent from the document.13 Firstly, the Asian laborers are separated from the white labor, and on many other payroll documents and other correspondences between employers, “white labor” and “Jap labor” are distinguished and separated. Secondly, the monthly wages of the Japanese workers are generally lower than the wages of white workers, despite the Japanese being approximately half the fishing fleet. Thirdly, women, who often occupied the less skilled jobs, are also paid less than white male workers. Lastly, the white women and the Japanese workforce are paid similar wages. It is known that First Nations people were significant contributors to the workforce in the canneries and in the fishing fleet, especially in northern canneries such as the North Pacific. However it is interesting to note that their names are absent from these payroll sheets. The only indication that First Nations laborers were present is one white employee, a “P. Ryan” who has the job description of the “Indian Boss”.14 The payroll document provides evidence showing the disparity in racial and gender relations in the canneries that have been described in 11 Diane, Newell, Tangled Webs of History: Indians and the Law in Canada's Pacific Coast Fisheries, Toronto, 1993.p.100 12 Ibid. p.101 13 UBC Special Collection Archives, Payroll Sheet, Anglo-British Columbia Packers Fonds, Box 81, April 1919 and UBC Special Collection Archives, Payroll Sheet July, Anglo-British Columbia Packers Fonds, Box 82, Payroll Sheet for year 1938. 14 UBC Special Collection Archives, Payroll Sheet, Anglo-British Columbia Packers Fonds, Box 81, August 1919  7 secondary sources. The payroll date of 1919 is also of significance because payrolls found in this year reflect the peak year of Japanese participation in the industry. In this year, Japanese fishermen held 3,267 licenses, almost half the total licenses issued that year.15 It was mentioned that the Japanese were thought to be the most skilled fishermen. Diane Newell has found that in the North Pacific Cannery, in 1904, the average fish yield for the Japanese were 2900 fish per boat, whites 1750 fish per boat, and Indians 1350 fish per boat.16  Fishing Technology In the years preceding the First World War, fishing in the North Pacific Cannery was primarily done through a method of gill-net fishing. However, seine fishing underwent the greatest technological change in the post-war period. In the first decade of the century, the vessels of the fishing fleet averaged 11.5m long, with five-horsepower engines. By 1920, the size of the vessels ranged from 14 to 23 m long, powered by 45 to 110-horsepower engines.17 Gill-netting and trolling, traditionally lowertech methods of fishing remained the predominant methods of fishing until the 1920s. However, British Columbia was seeing a shift to more mechanized fishing methods. Purse-seine licenses were becoming increasingly available, in the years 1923 to 1926, licenses increased by 128 percent, closely matching gill-nett and trolling licenses purchased in the same period.18 While the rest of the province was mechanizing, the North Pacific Cannery and other canneries of northern British Columbia were slower to adopt purse seine fishing on mechanized boats and technological change. This was because the Department of Fisheries banned purse-seine fishing on the Skeena estuary where the North Pacific Cannery derives its primary catch. Diagram 2 below depicts fisherman Bob Wulff on moored gill-net 15 Hugh, W. McKervill, The Salmon People: the Story of Canada's West Coast Salmon Fishing Industry, Vancouver, 1967.p.162 16 Diane, Newell, Tangled Webs of History: Indians and the Law in Canada's Pacific Coast Fisheries, Toronto, 1993.p.140 17 Ibid. p.101 18 Ibid. p.101  8 boats on the Skeena estuary in 1926, during the heyday fishing vessel mechanization. Since only gillnet row boats are depicted, the photo suggests the reluctance of the northern canneries to accept newer fishing technology. Additionally, it is of particular importance to note that the Japanese were barred from having motorized boats until 1930, whilst white and First Nations fishermen benefited from engine-powered boats as early as 1923.19 It would seem that the Japanese's reputation as superior producers prevented them from taking advantage of newer technology that would allow them to become even more efficient fishermen.  Diagram 2: Fisherman Bob Wulff with Fishing Fleet at North Pacific Cannery in 1926 (Fishermen Publishing Society Fonds:BC 1532/1332/1, UBC Special Collections) The Effect of World War II on Fishermen The Great Depression beginning in 1929 crippled the salmon industry in British Columbia, contributing to the volatility of the industry and its conditions on its workforce. However, following the repeal of the exclusionary policies preventing Japanese and Chinese workers from fisheries in 1928, the Japanese fishing licenses stabilized and were no longer eliminated. The Japanese fishermen would be free of discrimination for fourteen years, until World War II when they were completely removed from the 19 Hugh, W. McKervill, The Salmon People: the Story of Canada's West Coast Salmon Fishing Industry, Vancouver, 1967.p.163  9 coast as an emergency war measure.20 McKervill notes that World War II provided the perfect opportunity for European white fishermen to justify their long-held prejudices against the Japanese.  “In reality war with Japan was merely an excuse. It was the long-awaited opportunity for fear and ignorance to garb themselves in the uniform of feigned national interested, for the scalding hatred poured upon the Japanese people of the West Coast had been brewing in the pot of prejudice for fifty years. And the centre of this hatred was in the salmon industry”.21  The Canadian War Measures Act, brought into force again in 1942, resulted in over twenty-two thousand Japanese people being uprooted and relocated to internment and work camps in the interior of British Columbia. Japanese fishermen at the North Pacific Cannery had their boats and fishing equipment legally confiscated or in some cases, even destroyed. For almost a decade, the Japanese were forbidden to return to work in the canneries. The historically efficient and industrious Japanese workforce in the fisheries were all but gone. For a time during the War Measures Act, a few thousand Japanese immigrants and even Canadian citizens of Japanese descent, were deported back to Japan.22  For First Nations people, the Japanese's plight proved fortuitous for them as it helped bolster their participation in the fishing fleet and in the canneries. A foreman's schedule in the North Pacific Cannery of total catch from the July 1946 to September 1946 shows evidence of the Japanese absence. The schedule notes the seasonal Sockeye catch of employed fishermen at the cannery with only white fishermen and Indians having received any Sockeye yield that fishing season.23 The lifting of the War 20 Diane, Newell, Tangled Webs of History: Indians and the Law in Canada's Pacific Coast Fisheries, Toronto, 1993.p.106 21 Hugh, W. McKervill, The Salmon People: the Story of Canada's West Coast Salmon Fishing Industry, Vancouver, 1967.p.154 22 Masako, Fukawa and Stanley, Fukawa, Spirit of the Nikkei Fleet: BC's Japanese Canadian Fishermen, Vancouver, 2009.p.140 23 UBC Special Collection Archives, Foreman's Correspondence Supplemental Schedule, Anglo-British Columbia Packers Fonds, Box 82, June 1943.  10 Measures Act in 1949 saw the return of less than half of the original Japanese fishermen. It was a bittersweet time as many of the once cohesive and well-organized Japanese communities had dispersed around the country and taken up jobs in other industries.24 Returning Japanese fishermen still faced the same discrimination and adversity they had lived with before, but in many cases, the post-war sentiment towards them by the rest of the community had worsened.  Conclusion The Pacific salmon industry was a highly seasonal, competitive and erratic industry. Canneries were isolated and scattered, labor was divided, capital and materials were scarce. But it was due to these reasons that many considered the industry a triumph of nineteenth and twentieth century entrepreneurship. The story of the fishing fleet at the North Pacific Cannery was one that saw ethnic groups in constant contest with each other. This lead to discriminatory legislation by the government and ethnic minorities being exploited for cheap labor. Records show that there was a large presence of ethnic minorities working at the North Pacific Cannery. As the Cannery was so isolated and far north, production costs had to be kept down by employing mostly ethnic minorities. Despite facing discriminatory practices and unfavorable working conditions, minority workers in the North Pacific Cannery were pivotal to the success and growth of the fishing industry in British Columbia. Similarly, other canneries in British Columbia also relied heavily on minority laborers in order to survive.  24 Masako, Fukawa and Stanley, Fukawa, Spirit of the Nikkei Fleet: BC's Japanese Canadian Fishermen, Vancouver, 2009.p.162  11 References Secondary Sources Alicja, Muszynski, Cheap Wage Labour: Race and Gender in the Fisheries of British Columbia, Montreal, 1996. Diane, Newell, Development of the Pacific Salmon-Canning Industry: A Grown Man's Game, Montreal, 1989. Diane, Newell, Tangled Webs of History: Indians and the Law in Canada's Pacific Coast Fisheries, Toronto, 1993. Diane, Newell, The Rationality of Mechanization in the Pacific Salmon-Canning Industry before the Second World War, The Business History Review, p. 626-655. Vol.62, 1988. Douglas, C. Harris, Fish, Law and Colonialism: The Legal Capture of Salmon in British Columbia, Toronto, 2001. Fisherman Publishing Society Fonds, View of Bob Wulff on Board One of the Fishing Boats Coming into the North Pacific Cannery, BC 1532/1332/1, 1926, URL: http://digitalcollections.library.ubc.ca/cdm/singleitem/collection/fisherman/id/3009/rec/2 Geoff, Meggs, Salmon: the Decline of the British Columbia Fishery, Vancouver, 1995. Hugh, W. McKervill, The Salmon People: the Story of Canada's West Coast Salmon Fishing Industry, Vancouver, 1967. Masako, Fukawa and Stanley, Fukawa, Spirit of the Nikkei Fleet: BC's Japanese Canadian Fishermen, Vancouver, 2009. North Pacific Cannery National Historic Site, 2011, URL: http://www.northpacificcannery.ca/history/ Primary Sources (see Appendix) UBC Special Collection Archives, Foreman's Correspondence Supplemental Schedule, Anglo-British Columbia Packers Fonds, Box 82, June 1943. UBC Special Collection Archives, Payroll Sheet April, Anglo-British Columbia Packers Fonds, Box  12 81, Payroll Sheet for year 1919. UBC Special Collection Archives, Payroll Sheet August, Anglo-British Columbia Packers Fonds, Box 81, Payroll Sheet for year 1919. UBC Special Collection Archives, Payroll Sheet July, Anglo-British Columbia Packers Fonds, Box 82, Payroll Sheet for year 1938.  13 Appendix I.) UBC Special Collection Archives, Payroll Sheet April, Anglo-British Columbia Packers Fonds, Box 81, Payroll Sheet for year 1919.  14 II.) UBC Special Collection Archives, Payroll Sheet July, Anglo-British Columbia Packers Fonds, Box 81, Payroll Sheet for year 1938.  15 III.) UBC Special Collection Archives, Payroll Sheet August, Anglo-British Columbia Packers Fonds, Box 81, Payroll Sheet for year 1919.  

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