UBC Theses and Dissertations

UBC Theses Logo

UBC Theses and Dissertations

Five easy pieces on the Strait of Georgia - reflections on the historical geography of the North Salish Sea Stewart, Howard MacDonald


This study presents five parallel, interwoven histories of evolving relations between humans and the rest of nature around the Strait of Georgia or North Salish Sea between the 1850s and the 1980s. Together they comprise a complex but coherent portrait of Canada’s most heavily populated coastal zone. Home to about 10% of Canada’s contemporary population, the region defined by this inland sea has been greatly influenced by its relations with the Strait, which is itself the focus of a number of escalating struggles between stakeholders. This study was motivated by a conviction that understanding this region and the sea at the centre of it, the struggles and their stakeholders, requires understanding of at least these five key elements of the Strait’s modern history. Drawing on a range of archival and secondary sources, the study depicts the Strait in relation to human movement, the Strait as a locus for colonial dispossession of indigenous people, the Strait as a multi-faceted resource mine, the Strait as a valuable waste dump and the Strait as a place for recreation / re-creation. Each of these five dimensions of the Strait’s history was most prominent at a different point in the overall period considered and constantly changing relations among the five narratives are an important focus of the analysis. The evolving roles of governance, science, cultural representation and conservationism / environmentalism are considered throughout. The only common element linking the five narratives, apart from the Strait itself, is a pervasive, well-founded fear of loss – fear of a dangerous sea or fear of losing access to the marine highway, fear of losing the Strait as indigenous patrimony or as a colonial entitlement, fear of losing its rich terrestrial and marine resources, fear of losing waste dumping privileges, fear of losing the Strait as recreational space. The study concludes with a brief consideration of the five narratives in the 21st century, their contemporary interactions and their links with the histories considered in this study.

Item Media

Item Citations and Data


Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada