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First Nations Bunkhouse slated for $2 million restoration

By Hannah Scott, Local Journalism Initiative reporter

Published 11:13 PST, Tue February 9, 2021

Last Updated: 11:32 PST, Tue February 9, 2021

City staff has proposed a new restoration program for the First Nations Bunkhouse at Britannia Shipyards.

The plan was the subject of discussion at a recent parks, recreation and cultural services committee meeting, and came before council last night.

According to a report from city staff, the building is considered to be the only one of its kind remaining on the B.C. coast. 

“It was estimated to cost $160,000 to repair about 30 years ago, and it’s deteriorated badly since then,” said Coun. Harold Steves. “But it’s an extremely important part of our heritage, and we’re going to have to bite our lower lip and get on with it.” 

The estimated cost for the project is about $2 million, including a reconstruction of the bunkhouse building and improvements including plumbing and electrical to suit future programming. 

Following an amendment to the original motion, council has directed city staff to investigate perhaps installing welcoming totems at the front of the building. Efforts will be made to include the Musqueam and other First Nations identified as having participated in the Fraser River commercial fishery.

Steves noted that the so-called bunkhouse should be given a different name because of its function during the active canning days.

“We don’t know how many families would have lived in it, but it would have been family accommodation,” said Steves. “It was all First Nations women who were cleaning the fish and doing the canning, and almost all the men that were fishing were First Nations men. So it was men and women living together, so I don’t think you can call it a bunkhouse. The Chinese bunkhouse and the Japanese bunkhouse would have had bunk beds, and I don’t think that that was what we had here, so we’ve got to find another name for it.”

City staff were directed to look into suggestions for possibly renaming the building.

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