Stanley Park's Secret: The Forgotten Families of WhoiWhoi, Kanaka Ranch, and Brockton Point


282 pages
Contains Photos, Maps, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 1-55017-346-4
DDC 971.1'33






Reviewed by Joan A. Lovisek

Joan Lovisek, Ph.D., is a consulting anthropologist and ethnohistorian
in British Columbia.


In this book, historian Jean Barman summarily dispels the image of
Stanley Park as a pristine natural environment that was carved out of
nature for urban enjoyment. Using a wide repertoire of historical
documents (including oral histories, archival photographs, census data,
legal cases, and government records), she uncovers a shameful past of
the eviction of mostly forgotten families who established communities at
Whoi Whoi, Kanaka Ranch, and Brockton Point in what is now Stanley Park.

Stanley Park was created in 1887, a year after the City of Vancouver
was established. With careful scholarship, Barman describes the history
of the peninsula that would become Stanley Park, from its original use
by Aboriginal people and later for British military purposes in 1859.
She traces how an early survey error of the site of Stanley Park would
contribute to decades of bureaucratic confusion about whether it was the
federal government or the City of Vancouver that owned the park. The
confusion opened the door to competing interests and particularly to the
aggressive actions by the Vancouver Parks Board and the courts, which
eventually erased the

squatter’s rights (technically called adverse possession) of the many
families who happened to be in the wrong place and to be of the wrong

Barman carefully weaves the local history of the various communities
through oral histories that ground the historical narrative to real
people who are illustrated by numerous family photographs. She then
explores the often murky world of land pre-emption and speculation,
government policy, and the law, in a narrative that points to current
theories of social Darwinism and its intolerance for hybrid ethnicities
in explaining the treatment of the resident Stanley Park communities.

Especially interesting is Barman’s account of how children with no
Aboriginal ancestry ended up in Indian residential schools; these
children, of mostly Hawaiian ancestry, were taught to be Indians and
forced to live on the Mission Indian Reserve. This fine study
contributes to the early multicultural history of Vancouver’s past
even as it casts a shadow on Vancouver’s premier park.


Barman, Jean., “Stanley Park's Secret: The Forgotten Families of WhoiWhoi, Kanaka Ranch, and Brockton Point,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 22, 2024,