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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

A Year in Five Minutes: Vancouver 1984

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yin5_1984_pope_headlinePope John Paul II in Vancouver. Photo courtesy of Joe Marquette 

This year saw the well-received arrival of Pope John Paul II – his first visit to Canada as well as the debut of the Jackson Five at BC Place. It’s also the year Bill Reid’s renowned Chief of the Undersea World sculpture was unveiled in front of of the Vancouver Aquarium.

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

Steve Fonyo begins run across Canada

Steve Fonyo, inspired by Terry Fox, began to run across Canada on March 31. Fonyo was a 19-year-old Vernon kid who’d lost his leg to cancer at age 12. He dipped his artificial leg into the Atlantic Ocean at St. John’s, Newfoundland, then faced west. The journey would take him 14 months. It would end May 31, 1985 at the Pacific Ocean in Victoria. He completed 7,924 kilometres, crossed ten provinces and raised almost $9 million for cancer research, education and patient services, including $1 million pledged by the federal government. (More millions were to follow.) On the way he wore out six artificial legs and 17 pairs of running shoes.

“Shame the Johns” campaign in the West End

A “Shame the Johns” operation began in Vancouver on May 25 in an attempt to drive prostitutes’ clients from the West End. Most of the angry residents’ attention, however, was directed against the prostitutes themselves: picketing and verbally harassing them. The women did leave, but simply moved to other neighborhoods: Mount Pleasant, Strathcona, Kensington-Cedar Cottage and Grandview-Woodlands.

A month later, on June 20, Christ Church Cathedral was occupied by 12 members of ASP, the Alliance for the Safety of Prostitutes. The attorney general had obtained a Supreme Court injunction prohibiting soliciting west of Granville Street, and this demonstration was in protest of that move. (Residents of the West End had complained of prostitutes patrolling the Georgia Street sidewalk adjacent to the Cathedral.)”

Pope visits BC

Pope John Paul II visited British Columbia on September 18. This was the first visit to Canada by a Pope and the crowd at Abbotsford was immense: Some 200,000 people came to see and hear the Pope, and he responded by praising British Columbians’ struggle to achieve a “just society” between the mountains and the sea.

Later that evening, speaking to a capacity crowd at B.C. Place, the Pope, the Province reported, “hammered home the Catholic Church’s stand against abortion and artificial birth-control.” But, the paper continued, “They came to hear him speak, but they didn’t agree with all he said.”

Supreme Court sides with Musqueam

On November 1, the Supreme Court of Canada rendered a historically significant decision in the Guerin or Musqueam case. For the first time the highest court in Canada held that the Federal Government, namely the Department of Indian Affairs (DIA) and its agents, could be held legally responsible for any improprieties in their dealings with surrendered Indian lands when it is clearly demonstrated that they failed to act in the best interest of the Indian band, which amounted to an equitable fraud.

Signing of Declaration to return Hong Kong to China

T he signing of the Sino-British Joint Declaration on December 19 mandating the return of Hong Kong to China in 1997 began to cause a flow of Hong Kong capital into Vancouver.

Also in 1984


On March 28, a seven-week strike began at The Vancouver Sun and Province newspapers.

Michael Jackson and his brothers, an act called “The Jackson Five,” performed the first of three shows at B.C. Place on November 16. It was the most successful entertainment event in Vancouver’s history to that point, attracting more than 100,000 fans to B.C. Place, and grossing nearly $5 million, a new Vancouver entertainment record for a three-night stand. A big box on Page 1 of the Province read simply: He’s Here!

The Downtown Eastside Residents Association (DERA) established the DERA Co-Op at 638 Alexander Street. Jim Green, who had been hired by DERA as an organizer in 1980, says the Co-Op was “an outstanding example of community development. This Co-Op, in which 50 per cent of members do not speak English and 50 per cent are over 65, has never had staff. It is run entirely by its members, a powerful example of the abilities of low-income peoples.” The Co-Op provided 56 completely wheelchair accessible units.


James Sinclair, federal cabinet minister, died in West Vancouver on February 7, aged 75. He was born May 26, 1908 in Banff, Scotland. Writes Constance Brissenden, “In 1935 he was appointed assistant to education minister G.M. Weir, later beoming secretary to B.C. mines minister. At 31 Sinclair was elected a Liberal MP for Coast Capilano, later for Vancouver North (1940-58). He was fisheries minister in the St. Laurent government from 1952 to 1957. His daughter Margaret married Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau in 1970.”

Bill Duthie, bookseller, died in Vancouver on April 6, two days before his 64th birthday. He was born in Weston, Ontario April 8, 1920. Alan Twigg, of BC Bookworld, wrote a tribute to him in the June, 1984 issue of Quill & Quire. An excerpt: “Duthie joined the book trade in 1947 as a sales rep for Macmillan of Canada in rural Ontario and Quebec. He became the first full-time western book rep when in 1953 he offered his services first to Macmillan and then to McLelland and Stewart.

Once in Vancouver, according to his wife Macie, he decided he wanted to sell books to people who wanted them, rather than to reluctant stores. He opened the first Duthie Books on Robson Street [at the northwest corner of Hornby] in August of 1957, taking care to locate his store near the Vancouver Public Library. He subsequently opened branches on West 10th, Seymour, Hastings, and in the Arbutus Village.” It’s not an exaggeration to say that Bill Duthie raised the level of book selling in the city. It was great to go into a store where the staff knew what the hell they were doing.

Lorraine McAllister, singer and actress, died in Vancouver on April 27, aged 62. She was a singing star of radio and TV in the 1950s, headlining CBC Toronto’s Holiday Ranch and Vancouver’s Burn’s Chuckwagon, Some of Those Days and Meet Lorraine. She was a headline performer at Theatre Under the Stars, and performed in Johnny Holmes’ orchestra with Oscar Peterson as pianist and Maynard Ferguson as lead trumpet player. The wife of bandleader Dal Richards, she sang with his orchestra at the Panorama Roof of the Hotel Vancouver from 1950 to 1965. “One of the glamorous performers whose warmth and charm make her a favorite.”

Everett Crowley, Avalon Dairy founder and Collingwood neighborhood activist, died in Vancouver on November 25, aged 75. Writes Constance Brissenden: “He was born June 3, 1909 in Vancouver, part of a family of 12 that had come from Newfoundland’s Avalon Peninsula in 1906. Their South Vancouver farm delivered milk by dog and wagon, and registered Avalon Dairy before 1915. He later served on the parks board (1961-67). Ev Crowley Park on S.E. Marine Drive is named for him (1985). Lee Crowley, his youngest son, now runs Avalon Dairy.”

Diane Farris opened her first art gallery in Gastown. In the here-today-gone-tomorrow world of the private art gallery, Diane Farris’ 22 years is astonishing. With an alert and discerning eye, she’s launched the careers of many West Coast artists, like Attila Richard Lukacs, Chris Woods, Angela Grossmann and Graham Gillmore, and represents such luminaries as Dale Chihuly, Phil Borges, Judith Currelly and Gu Xiong.


34-acre Victory Memorial Park cemetery, a landmark with its big white cross in the South Surrey-White Rock area since the late 1950s, was acquired by The Loewen Group of Burnaby, which would eventually become the second-largest publicly-owned funeral corporation in North America.

Oakridge Shopping Centre, which had opened in 1959, was being left behind as new malls opened throughout the region and shoppers ranged farther and farther afield. To regain its customers, Oakridge was extensively renovated this year.

Woodwards became the first major Vancouver department store to open on Sundays.

The Mandarin Hotel opened in downtown Vancouver on May 2, a $41 million structure owned by a Hong Kong chain. It’s now the Metropolitan Hotel.

Official opening of the Granville Island Brewery, Canada’s first microbrewery, was on June 28.

BC Telecom-a reorganization of BC Tel-was incorporated under that name on November 14. The company will merge with Telus in 1999.

The Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada, an independent, non-profit organization headquartered in Vancouver, was established. Its mandate is to enhance awareness and understanding among the peoples of Canada and the Asia Pacific region.


This was the last season for a while for soccer’s Vancouver Whitecaps, and for its parent organization, the North American Soccer League. When the NASL folded, the Whitecaps-and other teams-also died. They would be revived in 1986 as the 86ers . . . and become the Whitecaps again in 2001.

At the Sarajevo Olympics, Lori Fung became Vancouver’s first ever gold medalist in rhythmic gymnastics (in the first time that competition was an Olympic event), and UBC medical student Hugh Pisher teamed with Quebecker Alwyn Morris to win the two-man, 1000-metres kayak final.

Squire Barnes (born June 12, 1963 in Burnaby) emerged in the Vancouver sports media in June. In 1992 he will land at BCTV, and he’s been there ever since. In 2004 he topped a Georgia Straight poll as best local sportscaster.


The Vancouver Pretrial Services Centre opened. It was a remand centre providing facilities for security (maximum), medium and open (minimum) housing for 150 inmates, with special provisions for 204 spaces. The centre is the City of Vancouver’s only holding facility.

The Cambie Street Bridge was closed to traffic in November, while its new $50 million six-lane replacement-the third in that location-was being built. It would eventually open on December 9, 1985.


The Tymac No. 2, a water taxi built in 1938, which in the 1940s and ’50s ran passengers from the foot of Columbia Street to Britannia Mines and church camps and summer resorts around Howe Sound, became a False Creek ferry. It had a capacity of 24 passengers. Says maritime writer Rob Morris: “The teak (estimated to be 200 years old) used for the boat’s doors, windows and trim was from the Canadian Pacific liner Empress of Japan.”

Construction began on the Broadway SkyTrain station at Broadway and Commercial Drive. Architects were Allen Parker and Associates. The station will be finished in 1985.

Chief of the Undersea World, by Bill Reid.  Image courtesy of Wikipedia.Chief of the Undersea World, by Bill Reid. Image courtesy of Wikipedia. 


Bryan Adams won four Juno Awards on December 5. Adams had become an international superstar with his album Cuts Like a Knife.

Bill Reid’s magnificent bronze killer whale was unveiled in the presence of Lt. Gov. Robert Rogers at the entrance to the Vancouver Aquarium. Also in 1984, Reid unveiled Mythic Messengers, a bronze relief for Teleglobe Canada. It was inspired, says art writer Elizabeth Godley, by a Haida ritual, “exchange of tongues”, whereby power was transferred from one entity to another.

The Terry Fox Memorial was unveiled at the east end of Robson Street, at BC Place. The creator of the memorial was Idaho-born (1937) Franklin Allen. It must be said that most of the initial public reaction was very negative. For one thing, there was no representation of Fox. Architectural historian Harold Kalman called it a “curious caricature of a Roman triumphal arch.” “Images etched onto reflective steel plates [created by Ian Bateson] were subsequently installed within the arch,” said Kalman, “and public outrage eventually subsided.” Allen’s design was chosen by a nine-person jury that included architect Arthur Erickson. It was announced in 2010 that the Memorial will be taken down, to be replaced by one created by Douglas Coupland.

Books published in 1984 on local issues included:

The Automobile Saga of British Columbia 1864-1914 by G.W. Taylor. Much of the focus is on Victoria, but there are interesting stories and statistics about this side of the water, too, and many funky photographs.

Belfast-born (1947) Brian Kelly, an enthusiast of transit history, published Farewell to Brill, the story of Vancouver’s trolley bus operations. Brill was a company that manufactured trolley buses

The book Above Tide: Reflections on Roderick Haig-Brown, describing and assessing the range of Roderick Haig-Brown’s output, appeared. Its author was Vancouver reviewer Anthony Robertson.


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.