Vancouver Feature: Squatters Settle in Stanley Park | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Vancouver Feature: Squatters Settle in Stanley Park

The following article is a feature from our Vancouver Feature series. Past features are not updated.

During the 1960s, Harry Jerome was a world-record-holding sprinter and the pride of Vancouver’s Black community. When the parks board erected this statue in his memory, most Vancouverites had forgotten about the small community of squatters that used to occupy this part of Stanley Park’s seawall.

Harry Jerome appears to be headed looks toward Deadman’s Island, where most of the squatters lived.

Squatters' shacks on Deadman's Island, 1891

A.H. Chambers, Major Matthews collection, Vancouver City Archives A36966.

Deadman's Island from the shore of Coal Harbour

Families began settling at Brockton Point in the vicinity of the Nine O’Clock gun and the Harry Jerome statue in the 1860s. These were a mixture of First Nations, Portuguese and others. Some of the men had jobs across the water at the Hastings Sawmill, to which they commuted by rowboat.

The residents were called squatters because the land on which they had their homes was parkland and they could not obtain ownership. The city tolerated their presence until the 1920s when both the civic and federal governments launched court cases to move the people out. The last of the residents left in 1931.

Harry Jerome represented Canada at three Summer Olympics. He retired from competitive running in 1968 and went on to a career in teaching. He died of a brain tumour in 1982, only 42 years old.