In Vanier Park in Vancouver. Autumn of 2019.

Vanier Park is a municipal park located in the Kitsilano neighbourhood of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, created in 1967. It is home to the Museum of Vancouver, the Vancouver Maritime Museum, the City of Vancouver Archives, and the H.R. MacMillan Space Centre. It is also the site of the ancestral Squamish settlement of Sen̓áḵw, which was destroyed by the Provincial government 54 years earlier.

The Squamish had an ancestral fishing ground on the site. In the mid-1800s, they established a more permanent village site there named Sen̓áḵw. During the Royal Engineer’s Survey of 1869, it was designated as “Indian Reserve No. 6”. Sen̓áḵw encompassed 80 acres, and included Vanier Park. In 1877, chief August Jack Khatsahlano, after whom the Kitsilano neighbourhood was named, was born at Sen̓áḵw.

The Canadian Pacific Railway, the Province and the City of Vancouver worked together to displace the Squamish inhabitants, with the City calling the settlement “a source of menace to the morals and health of the City”. In 1913, the BC Government under Richard McBride expropriated the site, paying the inhabitants a fraction of the land’s value, and giving them two days to leave before burning their homes to the ground.

The land was acquired from the Province by the Federal government in 1928. Around the time of the second world war, the site was home to Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) station, Number 2 Equipment Depot. On October 28, 1966, it was turned over to the Vancouver Park Board by the Federal Government. Named for former Governor General of Canada Georges Vanier, the park officially opened on May 30, 1967. The H.R. MacMillan Space Centre and the Vancouver Museum complex opened in 1968, thanks to lumber baron MacMillan’s $1.5 million donation.

Deputy Park Board Superintendent William Livingstone, famous for his landscape design for Queen Elizabeth Park and VanDusen Botanical Garden, increased the size of the original park site using tons of free fill from the excavation for the MacMillan Bloedel Building on Georgia Street. The fill added additional acres onto the park which was then landscaped by Livingstone and his crew.

Vanier Park plays host to several of Vancouver’s biggest summer festivals, including the International Children’s Festival and the Shakespearean Bard on the Beach. It is the biggest and most famous of the fifteen parks in Kitsilano.

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