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Join us for a boat cruise and guided tour of Vancouver’s labor history through Canada’s “Gateway to the Pacific”—the Burrard Inlet.

This year, the Association of Senior Anthropologists (ASA) has organized a field trip different from years past—a boat cruise through the historical heart of the wonderful city that is Vancouver.

Join us on a fascinating two-hour excursion into Vancouver’s rich and diverse labor history. Accompanied by guides from the British Columbia Labour Heritage Centre, we will be traveling by boat along the Burrard Inlet between downtown and North Vancouver. We will visit sites of significance to workers’ heritage and working class struggle that commemorate the importance of labor unions, individuals, collective actions, and much more. Each story reflects the political, economic, and social conditions of the time. Many link interrelated events or illustrate causes that span decades, such as the labor movement’s efforts to prevent injury and death on the job.

The tour starts at the dock near the Vancouver Convention Center at 2:30 p.m., right after the ASA business meeting and luncheon. We will be seeing and hearing about Vancouver’s history from the comfort of a paddle wheel boat, the MVP Constitution. Seating will be limited and we anticipate that this field trip will appeal to a wide range of Annual Meeting attendees; we strongly encourage members planning to come to the Annual Meeting this year to sign up early to be sure of a seat for this unique experience. (See below for registration instructions.)

The tour looks beyond the headlines to explore little-known details about important events, such as the Depression era “relief” Camps that generated the On-to-Ottawa Trek of 1935. Hundreds of unemployed workers climbed aboard freight trains on the Vancouver waterfront to take the demand of “Work and Wages!” to the federal government in Ottawa, Ontario, and were charged by Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers. Government unemployment insurance and other programs for workers owe much to the On-to-Ottawa Trek and numerous other collective actions in British Columbia’s labor history, including the earlier role of First Nations’ longshoremen in forming one of the first waterfront unions in 1906. We will learn about workplace disasters such as the 1945 S. S. Greenhill Park explosion and the 1958 collapse of the Second Narrows Bridge, which shaped the fight for workplace health and safety; and epic labor struggles such as the Northland Navigation fight against injunctions.

Themes of division, racism, sexism, scab workers, violence, and vigilante mobs, run through the events introduced in the tour. But we shall also see places where Vancouver’s history has been set and learn about social justice, celebration, art, ceremony, storytelling, and adventures, revealing the resilience and tenacity that permeate those same events. They remind us that the causes and values Canadians stand for are steeped in their past, and provide us all with lessons of caution, strategy, and inspiration for contemporary struggles.

Guides will tell these stories as we travel on the MVP Constitution along the Burrard Inlet waterway, with historical photos on hand to bring the events to life. They will also discuss the overall evolution of the waterfront from a largely industrial landscape (sawmills, canneries, etc.) to the primarily recreational space it is today. Participants can ask questions along the way to expand their understanding, and we will have some labor history “swag” to take home from the tour.

The tour also is a journey through Canada’s “Gateway to the Pacific”—the Burrard Inlet. We will be up close to many of Vancouver’s most famous landmarks, such as Stanley Park, the busy cruise ship terminals, the spectacular city skyline, historic Gastown, the breathtaking North Shore Mountains, and more.

The cost of this once-in-a-lifetime, two-hour tour is only $55. The MVP Constitution has room for 85 participants, with two interior decks and one spacious exterior deck for outside seating. Light refreshments, including snacks, beer, wine, and soft drinks will be available for purchase during the cruise. Vancouver weather in mid-November is often cool and drizzling. Our boat will protect us from the elements, while still permitting a great view of the city as we learn about its socioeconomic and ethnic history seen through the events of labor and class strife.

Go to the 2019 AAA/CASCA Annual Meeting online program for further details. If you have any problems signing up, let me, Tim Wallace, know at [email protected].

How to sign up

1. Enter the AAA website at
2. Click on the white Login button at the middle-top of the page. Enter your email address and password in the boxes indicated, and click on the Go button. (If you have not yet registered for the Annual Meeting, you will have to do so and log in again before continuing.)
3. If you have already registered for the Annual Meeting, you can click on Annual Meeting WORKSHOPS/EVENTS/BADGES, which should appear just below the blue block panels on the upper part of the page.
4. Find and click on Add Workshops, which should appear near the top of the page, under the Meetings/Other Events header on the left side of the line for the 2019 AAA/CASCA Annual Meeting.
5. Scroll down and click on the box next to the 2nd item on the list: Field trip: Harbour Cruise Labor and Tour of BC/Vancouver Labour Heritage Sites
6. Scroll the rest of the way to the bottom right of the page and click on Save/Add To Cart.
7. Under the heading quantity change the number from 1 to a higher number if you wish to purchase more than one spot on the tour; then scroll down to the bottom right of the page, click on Check-Out, and follow the rest of the payment instructions.

Tim Wallace is president-elect of the Association of Senior Anthropologists.

Sue Kenyon is contributing editor for the Association of Senior Anthropologists’ section news column.

Cite as: Wallace, Tim. 2019. “ASA Field Trip for the Annual Meeting in Vancouver.” Anthropology News website, October 2, 2019. DOI: 10.1111/AN.1271

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