Skip to content

Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

A Year in Five Minutes: Vancouver 1983

Read more articles by

yin5_1983_artgalleryVancouver Art Gallery. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

The year 1983, saw the creation of the Province newspaper in tabloid format, the formation of the Green Party, the opening of the first Earl’s Restaurant, and transformation of the Old Courthouse into the Vancouver Art Gallery.

Compiled by John Calimente (with permission from Chuck Davis)
Photos compiled by Erick Villagomez

B.C. Federation of Labour announces formation of Operation Solidarity

Operation Solidarity was formed on July 15. Following the defeat of the NDP government in 1975, Premier Bill Bennett’s Social Credit government proposed laws that the Federation opposed. The bills would have cut social programs, doing away with the Rentalsman and Human Rights Commission and cutting the size of the provincial public service by 25 per cent. The legislation fuelled the long held enmity the labour movement felt for Social Credit. Federation President Art Kube promised a province-wide general strike, including school teachers, public servants and all other trade and craft unions in Federation jurisdiction, if Bennett did not back down.

Province newspaper becomes a tabloid

The Province newspaper came out for the first time in a tabloid format on August 2. Prior to this time it had been what in newspaper circles is called a “broadsheet.”The Vancouver Sun still is.

40,000 workers at Solidarity rally

A Solidarity rally at Empire Stadium brought out more than 40,000 public and private sector workers on August 10 to protest the Social Credit government’s restraint policy.

Nightclub owner Joe Phillipone murdered

Joe Philliponi (born Filippone), nightclub owner, was shot to death on September 18, aged 70. His murder was linked to a robbery attempt. Some 800 people attended his funeral, a crowd described as including “Supreme Court justices, businessmen and dancers.” Two men were convicted of the murder, Scott Ogilvie Forsyth and Sydney Vincent Morrisroe. Born in southern Italy, Phillipone came to Vancouver in the early 1930s and started Eagle-Time Delivery Systems, later acquiring taxi cabs. In 1945 he opened The Penthouse dinner club at 1019 Seymour, presenting big names like Sammy Davis, Jr. and George Burns. In 1975 the club was closed by the vice squad; in 1977, Philliponi was charged with living off prostitution but the conviction was quashed. His business licence was withdrawn but re-approved by city council in 1979.

Vancouver Art Gallery moves

The Vancouver Art Gallery moved into the old courthouse on October 15. After a hugely successful fund-raising campaign to “take the art gallery to court”-$8 million was raised, twice the intended target and more than any other arts organization had ever raised in the city-the new gallery now found itself in immensely larger and more attractive surroundings. This was also the year the gallery finally bought an Emily Carr painting. They had declined to earlier. “It wasn’t art,” arts reviewer Anthony Robertson wrote, “as they understood art.” Today, the gallery boasts-rightly-that it holds the world’s largest collection of paintings by Ms. Carr.

BCGEU union members strike

The B.C. Government Employees Union contract expired, and the union’s 35,000 members went on strike on October 31. They would be followed a week later by all but a few of the province’s school teachers. More strikes were planned. Operation Solidarity appeared to be working.

Red Hot Video stores firebombed

Firebombs go off at three Red Hot Video outlets on November 22. A group calling itself the Wimmin’s Fire Brigade claims responsibility. Five people (the “Squamish Five”) will be arrested January 20, 1983 and, for this and other acts will be jailed for lengthy terms.

Also in 1983


At UBC a team at TRIUMF (the Tri-University Meson Facility) did their first scan with a PET tomograph or camera on February 24. They had been developing the chemistry and building the camera since 1980. PET stands for Positron Emission Tomography. Of the many definitions we found on the Net, we chose: an imaging technology that generates a computerized image of the body’s functional systems and how the body is able to function in health and disease.

On April 20 there is a large demonstration at City Hall organized by ASP, the Alliance for the Safety of Prostitutes.

In New Westminster, The Columbian, BC’s oldest newspaper (established in 1861), published its last edition on November 15. Growing costs and non-growing revenues forced it into bankruptcy after 122 years. One of its writers, Douglas Todd, moved to The Vancouver Sun, where he became an award-winning writer on religion and ethics.

A violent and costly riot erupted at the Lower Mainland Regional Correctional Centre (Oakalla) Rioters caused over $150,000 damage in a two-day spree starting November 22.

AIDS Vancouver was founded, one of the first AIDS service organizations in Canada. Although the disease wasn’t confined to gay men, news items and articles on AIDS had appeared in The Body Politic, Canada’s leading gay news magazine, in September 1981.

Ballantyne Pier, a cargo terminal in Vancouver’s east end, was temporarily put into service for cruise passengers while Canada Place was under construction. It has been in continuous service ever since as a convertible facility for pulp and paper products in the winter and cruise passengers in the summer.

The Green Party of British Columbia was founded by Paul George and Adriane Carr.

Colony Farm at Riverview (Mental Hospital), which had been started in 1905, closed.

In Lions Bay two teenage boys died and five homes were destroyed or damaged when a debris torrent poured tons of mud and logs down Alberta Creek. The creek was later channelized with a concrete lining.


Jim Kinnaird, president of the B.C. Federation of Labour, died in office on February 17, aged 50. He was elected business manager, Local 213, of the IBEW in 1967. He stepped down in the fall of 1972, to become president of the B.C. and Yukon Building Trades Council, then in 1973 was appointed assistant deputy minister of labor by the NDP government. He returned to head the Building Trades in 1976, until November 1978 when he was elected president of the B.C. Federation of Labor, uniting the divided body. Kinnaird served three terms as leader of 250,000 unionized workers, but died suddenly of a heart attack. Constance Brissenden writes: “He disliked flamboyance and public shouting matches but was not above them.”

Tsutae Sato, educator, died in Vancouver on May 23, aged about 92. He was born in 1891 in Tanekura, Fukushima-ken, Japan. He arrived in Canada July 2, 1917 to teach at the Nippon Kokumin Gakko, Japanese Citizens School on Alexander Street. Sato married Hanako Awaka (d. May 4, 1983, Vancouver), a teacher, in 1921. Together, they ran the Vancouver Japanese Language School from 1906 to 1942. The growth in number of Japanese residents in Vancouver led to the building of the Japanese Hall at 475 Alexander, dedicated March 19, 1928, for community activities and the school. In 1979 the Satos established scholarships in Japanese studies at UBC. In 1978 Tsutae was awarded the Order of Canada.


The first Earl’s Restaurant opened in Vancouver on February 3. It was named for Leroy Earl Fuller, who in 1954 opened his first restaurant to feed local farmers of Sunburst, Montana. The first Earl’s with that name opened in 1982 in Edmonton. There are now more than 50 restaurants in the chain throughout Western Canada, Arizona and Colorado. And Earl is still with us as Chairman of Earls Restaurants Ltd.

Fraser Valley Credit Union, which had started in 1949 with fourteen charter members and $48 in assets, but which had grown considerably, expanded into the insurance industry. (In 2001 FVCU will merge with the Edelweiss Credit Union. In 2003 they will change their name to Prospera Credit Union.)

Surrey Metro Savings-which had started May 5, 1947 as a closed bond credit union, open only to members of the Surrey Cooperative, expanded to become a community credit union. In 2006, it’s Canada’s second largest credit union.


The first Grey Cup Game was played at B.C. Place Stadium on November 27. 59,345 fans saw the Lions lose a squeaker, 18-17, to the Toronto Argonauts. The coverage of the game (both CBC and CTV television, CBC Radio and French-language CBC, attracted the largest audience in Canadian broadcast history for a Canadian sports program to that time with 8.1 million.

Three Richmond men-Lloyd Yodogawa, Dan Milkovich and Grant Kuramoto-were gold medalists in judo at the Canada Winter Games.

Jim Kojima, “Mr. Judo,” is named to the Order of Canada for his 40-year involvement in judo as participant, referee, coach and organizer.


Taking over from Pedersen at SFU: William Saywell, who will hold the post until 1993 . . . and immediately be faced with financial cutbacks-the “worst financial crisis for universities since the depression”-and responded with painful, painstaking tuition increases, program and staff cuts, salary roll-backs and hiring freezes.

A new $26 million campus facility for the King Edward Centre of Vancouver Community College was officially opened in the Mount Pleasant area at 1155 East Broadway. Its opening was marked by a trek-billed as “King Edward’s Last Trek”-of more than a thousand students. Most of the students walked, but a few made the trip from the old campus on Oak Street to the new campus on Broadway riding in a horse-drawn carriage. The stained glass window of King Edward VII from the original high school survived the 1973 fire and is now located on the second floor of the campus library.


Premier Bill Bennett opened Canada’s first domed stadium, Vancouver’s 60,000-seat BC Place, on June 19. In the first event at just-opened BC Place Stadium the next day, the Vancouver Whitecaps soccer team defeated the Seattle Sounders.

yin5_1983_international-buddhist-templeKuan Yin Buddhist Temple at 9160 Steveston Highway in Richmond. Photo Courtesy of Tourism Richmond.

The Kuan Yin Buddhist Temple at 9160 Steveston Highway in Richmond was dedicated on October 23. It was the first architecturally authentic Buddhist Temple in North America. The architect, Vincent Kwan, produced a building that has been called “the most exquisite example of Chinese palatial architecture in North America.” One can take a virtual tour of the Temple here.

On October 29, the Terry Fox Library in Port Coquitlam was officially opened by Terry’s parents, Betty and Rolland Fox. A commemorative plaque was unveiled, and a statue of Terry-created by George Pratt from Nelson Island granite-was unveiled.

It was announced that the old 1910 Post Office building at Hastings and Granville and adjacent buildings were to get a $40 million facelift and that, effective November 14, they would also get a new name: Sinclair Centre. The name was chosen to honour prominent businessman James Sinclair of West Vancouver, a former Liberal MP and federal fisheries minister (and father of Margaret Trudeau).

Construction started on Canada Place. This will be the Canadian Pavilion at Expo 86. The trade and convention centre is here, as is a cruise ship terminal, both now outgrown. At the southern (landward) end of the complex is the Pan Pacific Hotel and Vancouver’s World Trade Centre. There is an IMAX theatre here, too. The architectural team: Zeidler Roberts Partnership; Musson Cattell Mackey Partnership; Downs/Archambault and Partners. Construction would be finished by 1986.


The Surrey Festival of Dance, the largest festival of its type in North America, began on April 5. There are classes in Irish, Polynesian, Highland, ballet, tap, stage and jazz dancing.

Kazuyoshi Akiyama became the musical director of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra on November 27.

The Terry Fox Story, directed by Ralph Thomas. Eric Fryer played Terry in this made-for-TV movie that concentrated on the Marathon of Hope.

Philip Borsos’ movie The Grey Fox, released in 1982, the story of train robber Bill Miner, was nominated for Best Film at the Golden Globe Awards.

Books and works published in 1983 on local issues include:

The first issue of ExpoPulse! appeared on October 15. It was a weekly newsletter written by Chuck Davis and aimed at individuals and companies hoping to do business with Expo 86. ExpoPulse! ended publication when the exposition opened in May, 1986.

The book Teach me to fly, Skyfighter! and other stories, by Paul Yee, and illustrated by SKY Lee, appeared. It’s described as “stories about a group of Chinese-Canadian children growing up in Vancouver’s Chinatown and Strathcona districts.” It includes an afterword which summarizes the history of the Chinese community in British Columbia. (This was a busy year for Yee: he also submitted his MA thesis at UBC on “Chinese Business in Vancouver 1886-1914.”


The late Chuck Davis was a Vancouver writer who wrote, co-wrote, and/or edited 15 books. Most of them are on local history, and he described his yet-to-be released book, The History of Metropolitan Vancouver, as the capstone of his career. Chuck’s passion for history was contagious and all the information he gathered and wrote about is the priceless gift he has left the citizens of Vancouver.

John Calimente is the president of Rail Integrated Developments. He supports great public transit, cycling, and walking + transit integrated developments + urban life lived without a car.

Erick Villagomez is one of the founding editors at re:place. He is also an educator, independent researcher and designer with academic and professional interests in the human settlements at all scales. His private practice – Metis Design|Build – is an innovative practice dedicated to a collaborative and ecologically responsible approach to the design and construction of places.