UBC Undergraduate Research

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


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.

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