History of the West Side

To give you an idea of what the West Side of Vancouver consists of, think about everything west of Main St. up until UBC. Here is a screen shot of a map that displays it:

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The economy, education and housing are three big issues the West Side of Vancouver are facing currently.

With over 30 elementary schools, four annexes and nine high schools on the West Side, the long-running battle between the government and teachers is a major issue. British Columbia’s education, overall, is strong but the expense of a lengthy feud between the government and the teachers who have seen schools get shut down because strikes is potentially pointing to years of strife. The position of the Liberal government is a stance of present stability in classrooms, however, and something even more promising on the education front are community initiatives like Science World’s annual Around the Dome Science Festival.

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Program director at Science World, Tammy Matheson (left), talking about the ‘Around the Dome Science Festival’.

“We always start our festival with a community science operation,” program director of Science World, Tammy Matheson said. “We invite a number of community partners, this year we have 18 partners, to share the science that they do with the rest of the community. We are very fortunate to have support from BC Hydro that have offered us to have this free admission to the public today.”

On a typical day, Matheson says the festival brings between 10-12 thousand people. From Science World, it’s about a 45-minute walk, 30-minute sea-bus or 15-minute bike ride to get to Granville Island along the sea wall. Granville Island is a peninsula, with the area originally used for fishing by First Nations. It’s home to almost 300 businesses today and reels in $215-million in economic activity each year. Things weren’t always this way, though. During the Great Depression, “Shackers” (homeless people) lived on the island and survived by fishing salmon. Homelessness in Vancouver isn’t as big an issue on the Westside as much as it is on the Eastside, where the majority of Vancouver’s 1,847 (2016 statistic) homeless people reside. 

Marpole, formerly a Musqueum village dating back some 4,000 years, has been a national historic site since 1933.

Venturing further West, we reach the residential neighbourhood of Kerrisdale. An influx of immigrants from Hong Kong in the 1980’s settled in Kerrisdale and today, the neighbourhood hosts a mix of professionals and wealthy Chinese families. The name, Kerrisdale, owes thanks to a family home from Scotland called ‘Kerrydale’.

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A view of the Westside from Shaughnessy, an affluent residential neighbourhood just off Arbutus and King Edward streets.

Dunbar-Southlands has been studied by archaeologists and research suggests First Nations settled here between 4000-5000 B.C. Good luck finding this statistic elsewhere online though. The City of Vancouver claims the First Nations settled as far back as 400 B.C., however, architect Hartley Odwak with Sources Archaeological & Heritage Research Inc. says otherwise. “Let me correct you on something. The sites in and around here are more around 4,000 B.C,” Odwak said.

Let’s go North, past the prosperous Arbutus Ridge neighbourhood and into an even more prominent, affluent area of the West Side – Kitsilano. Kits was formerly inexpensive and home to hippies in the 1960’s until becoming gentrified and taken over by the rich in ensuing decades. It’s proximity to the downtown area, ocean, parks and beaches make it a desirable neighbourhood to live in and is home to celebrities Trevor Linden, Ryan Reynolds, Chip Wilson, and Philip K. Dick.

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