Vanier Park, and the surrounding 35 hectare
s of land at the south end of the Burrard bridge
, was set aside in 1877 as a reserve
for the Squamish
people. But in 1913, the B.C. government, under Conservative
premier Richard McBride
, decided they would like to use that land for Vancouver's growth.
The reservation was considered to be an eyesore, although only a small community of natives remained after European contact and a smallpox epidemic. A longhouse stood where the current H. R. MacMillan Planetarium stands today, and a few other structures comprised the small village.
The natives were ordered to gather their belongings and report to the dock, where they were to be taken to areas on the north side of the Burrard Inlet. Each family was offered a severance of $11,250. Not all of the families accepted the money, and most of the elders could not even speak english. Regardless, everyone was boarded onto the barge. As soon as the indians had been removed, the government torched their homes and barns.
In 2000, the Squamish band received a 92.5 million dollar settlement from the B. C. government to respond to this unconstitutional behavior. All the disputed land has gone to private interests at this point and was not on the table to be haggled over.
Today, the Planetarium nods to the history of the landscape through its architectural inspiration - the shape of the building is based on the form of the Haida Hat. It's a favorite place to fly kites and get a great view of the west end. It is the site of one of the darkest and most embarrasing moments of B.C.'s history, and the land bears no trace of its past. I think of this every time I'm there - how all that story has been paved and landscaped over in a calm, but homogenous way. So Vanier Park, while beautiful, will always have a quiet sadness for me.
The Globe and Mail, July 25, 2000