B.C. politics research guide: Special Collections and Rare Books

Cartoon by Len Norris, 1957, featuring several old, mustached Conservative men in a smoking room labelled Victoria Conservative Club, talking to a butler asking to shut the door to two people looking into the window (dressed as Norris' caricature of the Socred party in Quaker hats and tattered clothing)

 Looking for archival materials or primary sources about politics in British Columbia? Start your research here!

Special Collections and Rare Books (SCRB) is home to a number of archives, journals, monographs, and other resources which which chronicle the various areas of the political sphere in British Columbia (B.C.). Some of the material is available online. 

For the purpose of this guide, “politics” is defined as the processes and activities of government and political parties. Please visit the Activism, Labour, and LGBTQ2S+, and other Special Collections and Rare Books research guides for further inquiry into the political landscape of British Columbia. Each entry below provides a brief description of the materials, links to archival finding aids, Library Catalogue records, SFU Digitized Collections, or links to resources outside of SFU Library.

Why are some materials "unprocessed"?

The work that archivists do in preparing materials for research use is called “processing.” This involves:

  • identifying and describing materials
  • making the materials discoverable by creating finding aids (like these pages), database records, and other tools
  • rehousing materials in archival-standard enclosures (like acid- and lignin-free boxes and file folders)

Because we want our users to know we have relevant holdings to their research, we list and selectively provide access to our unprocessed collections.

Interested in exploring an unprocessed collection? Contact us as early as possible so we can discuss details.

Archival collections

Hilary Brown fonds

Extent: 2.21 m of textual records and other material
Archival finding aid: MsC-57

Hilary Brown (1909-2007) became an active member of the Hornby Island community and founder of many of the Island’s landmarks such as the Hornby Island Co-op, Hornby Island Credit Union, New Horizons, and the Heron Rocks Friendship Society. In 1973, the governing New Democratic Party (NDP) passed legislation to create an Island’s Trust to oversee the island’s located in the Strait of Georgia and Howe Sound. The following year Brown was appointed as the inaugural Director and Chair of the Islands Trust for a two year period.

The fonds consists mainly of textual materials, including correspondence and records relating to Brown's involvement in her different political and organizational activities.

Citizens Assembly on Electoral Reforms fonds

Extent: 55.3 cm of textual records and other material
Archival finding aid: MsC-87

The Citizens Assembly on Electoral Reform (CAER) membership was made of of 161 British Columbia residents, randomly chosen from the provinces 79 electoral districts. The mandate of The Citizens Assembly on Electoral Reform was to examine a variety of models for the election of members of the Legislative Assembly and to propose recommendations on whether British Columbia should keep its current system for provincial elections or whether it should adopt a new model. The Citizens Assembly on Electoral Reform held fifty public hearings in May and June of 2004. In addition, over 1430 individuals made 1603 written submissions to the Assembly. The deliberation sessions were held from September to November 2004. The adoption of a new voting system, called BCSTV or single transferable vote system was recommended. On May 17, 2005 a provincial referendum was held to allow citizens to vote on whether the BC-STV system should be adopted for use in provincial elections.

The fonds consists of print submissions made by individuals to CAER, electronic records made by the CAER, video recordings of plenary sessions, interviews with CAER members, details of the BC-STV system, and animations of the procedure for the BC-STV, and a printed technical report.

Communist Party of Canada fonds

Extent: 13 cm of textual records
Archival finding aid: MsC-48

Founded in Ontario in 1921, the Communist Party of Canada is one of two federally registered Communist parties in Canada, the other being the Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist), an anti-revisionist Maoist party. 

The fonds consists of material relating to the end of the Communist Party of Canada; includes newspapers, correspondence, legal documents; ephemera.  

Robert Connell fonds

Extent: 6.5 cm of textual records
Archival finding aid: MsC-44

Robert Connell (1871-1957) was a clergyman and politician in British Columbia. He was the first leader of the provincial Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF), now the British Columbia NDP. 

The fonds consists of correspondence, manuscripts, typescripts of radio addresses created by Connell.

Allan Fotheringham fonds

Extent: [ca. 15.5 m of textual records and other material]
Archival finding aid: MsC-157 [unprocessed]

Allan Fotheringham worked as a journalist for over six decades. He started his career as a columnist at the The Ubyssey, a student newspaper, then was hired by the Vancouver Sun, where he covered the final days of the B.C. Social Credit Party and the ascendance of Pierre Trudeau. His widely-read and influential Maclean's column was on the back page for 27 years; it is where memorable political nicknames like "the brogue that walks and talks like a man" (for Jack Webster) and its offspring, "the jaw that walks and talks like a man" (for Brian Mulroney), first appeared. Fotheringham is credited with coining the terms Natural Governing Party for the federal Liberals, and the Holy Mother Corporation for the CBC in the course of writing his column. His columns occasionally opened with the exclamation "Zowie, Dr. Foth!" In 2001, Fotheringham left Maclean's and became a columnist for The Globe and Mail. He had a nationally syndicated column in 20 newspapers for six years, then retired from regular contributions.

The unprocessed fonds consists of records relating to the life and published journalism and books of Allan Fotheringham. They include newspaper clippings, scrapbooks, photographs, notebooks, correspondence, magazines, books, a typewriter, certificates, awards, conference name tags, and born-digital documents.

Russell Fraser fonds

Extent: [ca. 2 m of textual records and photographic material]
Archival finding aid: MsC-272 [unprocessed]

Russell Gordon Fraser was a Canadian politician. He served in the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia from 1983 to 1991, as a Social Credit member for the constituency of Vancouver South.

The unprocessed fonds consists of records used and created by Russell Fraser while he was member of the B.C. Social Credit Party and MLA for Vancouver South. These include government documents, newspaper clippings, photographs, reports, and Expo 86 posters.

Doris French Shackleton fonds

Extent: 192 cm of textual records and other material
Archival finding aid: MsC-174

Doris French Shackleton (1918-2002) was editor for the Economics and Research Branch of the Department of Labour from 1958 to 1960. She left that position to become a radio commentator for CBC Ottawa, where she worked from 1960-1967. Shackleton was editor for the Canadian Welfare Council from 1967-1970, where she ran the magazine "Canadian Welfare." In 1970, she was appointed press assistant to the NDP federal caucus, for whom she also wrote discussion papers. She twice ran failed campaigns for the federal NDP, once in 1972 in the riding of Ottawa-Carleton, where she lost to John Turner, and once in 1974 in the riding of Ottawa West, where she lost to Lloyd Francis. She was Councillor for the Township of Gloucester, Ontario from 1977 to 1979. Her writing has been published in major Canadian media outlets including the Globe & Mail, Chatelaine, Ottawa Journal, Ottawa Citizen, and Maclean’s. She was a member of the Writers Union of Canada, and after moving to British Columbia in the late 1980s, joined the Federation of B.C. Writers.

The fonds consists of correspondence, research, notes, written works, newspaper clippings and other records accumulated by Shackleton over her lifetime. These include records relating to her career as a writer, editor and journalist, her political activities, her education, research, travels abroad and those records relating to her personal relationships with professional acquaintances, friends and family members.

Anthony Gargrave fonds

Extent: [ca. 45 cm of textual records]
Archival finding aid: MsC-229 [unprocessed]

Anthony Gargrave (1936-1998) represented the provincial riding of Mackenzie as a CCF and NDP member of the Legislative Assembly from 1952-1966. After retiring from the legislature, he ran a failed campaign for mayor of Vancouver, and continued his career as a lawyer.

The unprocessed fonds consists of scrapbooks, containing newspaper clippings, press releases, campaign materials, minutes, correspondence, programs and song lyrics, created by Gargrave while he was an MLA in Mackenzie, and when he ran for Mayor of Vancouver in 1970 as a representative of the NDP civic party.

James Hawthornwaite fonds

Extent: 30 cm of textual records and other material
Archival finding aid: MsC-47

James Hurst Hawthornthwaite (1863-1926) was born in Ireland in 1863. Hawthornthwaite worked as a colliery clerk in the coal mines of Vancouver Island before being elected to the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia in 1901. Hawthornthwaite represented the Vancouver Island ridings of Nanaimo from 1901 to 1912 and Newcastle from 1918 to 1920. Hawthornthwaite was one of the first socialists elected to the Provincial Parliament and became a member of the newly formed Socialist Party of Canada in 1903. Hawthornthwaite was instrumental in developing the Workmen's Compensation Act (the first of its kind in Canada). He also introduced legislation for the eight-hour work day and for women's suffrage and he actively opposed the exploitation of Asian labourers in British Columbia.

The fonds primarily of incoming correspondence addressed to Hawthornthwaite in his capacity as a Member of the Legislative Assembly from his constituents and other residents of British Columbia. The fonds contains a file consisting of legislative bills, resolutions, and acts tabled during Hawthornthwaite's tenure in the Provincial Parliament and other records that Hawthornthwaite made or received in the course of his service to the people of Nanaimo, as well as published records of the legislative assembly of British Columbia for the years 1909 and 1910.

Robert Jackson fonds

Extent: 90 cm of textual records and other material
Archival finding aid: MsC-49

In the 1930s, Robert Jackson (1914-2000) helped organize men in Vancouver's government-run labour camps for the On to Ottawa Trek of 1935. He was a member of the Communist Party and of the Industrial Wood and Allied Workers of Canada until he supported a failed attempt to split that union in 1948. After serving in the Canadian Navy during WWII and working in wood mills in Vancouver, Jackson devoted much of his later life to educating younger Canadians about labour history. Jackson was a socialist and an advocate of workers' rights and he supported these causes until his death from cancer June 27, 2000.

The fonds consists primarily of records related to Robert Jackson's political interests and activities and includes original and reproduction documents from labour events in the 1930s, particularly the On to Ottawa trek.

Japanese Canadian Blue River Road collection

Extent: 35.5 cm of textual records ; 10 architectural drawings
Archival finding aid: MsC-140

Beginning in 1942, the Canadian government established a “protected area” including all territory within 100 miles of the coast of British Columbia and started the process of removing any male “enemy aliens” of Japanese descent from that zone. Approximately 12,000 women and children were sent to detention camps in the interior and, among other fates, about 945 men were sent to road work camps along the Yellowhead Highway between Blue River, B.C. and Jasper, A.B.

The collection contains administrative records, mainly correspondence, from the Bureau of Mines and Resources, relating to the establishment and supply of these camps, along with personnel records, that can provide insight into the conditions and management of the detainees.

Betty Krawczyk fonds

Extent: 3.6 m of textual records and other material
Archival finding aid: MsC-148

Fonds consists of the personal records of Betty Krawczyk, an environmentalist and active community member in British Columbia’s Lower Mainland. Krawczyk’s interests included socialism, feminism, politics, and a dislike for racism and the state. Spanning from 1970 to 2013, the fonds documents Krawczyk’s court cases, time spent in prison and participation in local community activism groups.

The fonds predominantly contains correspondence and legal records associated with Krawczyk’s court cases and prison sentences. Other records include certificates, notes, flyers, flags, mission statements, newspaper clippings, envelopes, financial papers, and Krawczyk’s published materials.

Edward McWhinney fonds

Extent: 6.8 m of textual materials ; 604 photographs
Archival finding aid: MsC-191

Edward McWhinney (1924-2015) was an international authority on constitutional and aviation law, a prolific author, member of multiple academic and professional organizations, a Member of the Canadian Parliament and a lecturer at universities around the world. 

Consisting primarily of records created in the course of his extensive professional and political careers, this fonds contains correspondence, newspaper and magazine articles, handwritten notes and cards, photographs, published materials, books, photocopies, and ephemera. 

Grace McCarthy fonds

Extent: 8.83 m of textual records and graphic material
Archival finding aid: MsC-168

Born in Vancouver, Grace McCarthy (1927-2017) was first elected to the provincial legislature of British Columbia as a member of the Social Credit party in 1966. She was re-elected in 1969; defeated in 1972 when the NDP won power; and re-elected in 1975, 1979, 1983 and 1986. Following two unsuccessful runs, she became party leader in 1993, but resigned in May 1994 following a by-election loss. McCarthy is credited with many significant accomplishments over her political career. Early in her career, she lobbied successfully for home-ownership for women in an era when women were not considered for a mortgage without a male guarantor. She was instrumental in bringing Expo ’86 to Vancouver and oversaw the building of the first SkyTrain line. As Minister of Tourism, she spearheaded the building of the Vancouver Trade and Convention Centre at Canada Harbour Place. Serving as Minister of Social Services, Grace McCarthy established Canada’s first Hot Line to respond to abused children, and brought the most comprehensive legislation to stop child abuse in the country.

The fonds consists of 89 scrapbooks relating to Grace McCarthy and her career as a politician within the British Columbia Social Credit party. Scrapbooks contain photographs, correspondence, newspaper clippings, magazine articles, press releases, ephemera, and other material dating from 1960 to 1991.

Margaret A. Mitchell fonds

Extent: [ca. 2.3 m of textual records, photographic material, and moving images]
Archival finding aid: MsC-250 [unprocessed]

Margaret A. Mitchell (1925-2017) was born in Ontario and trained as a social worker at McMaster University, the University of Toronto, and the University of British Columbia. During the 1970s she was employed as a community development worker with the Neighbourhood Services Association and was also active in a number of other organizations. From 1979 to 1993 Mitchell was the New Democratic Party MP for Vancouver East. She was the first politician to raise the issue of violence against women in the House of Commons, and the first MP to raise the issue of the Chinese Head Tax, in 1984.

The unprocessed fonds consists of scrapbooks of Mitchell's travels to Japan and Korea, reports she wrote with the Neighbourhood Services Association as a Community Development worker, speeches, mailings, newsletters, issues and case work files, correspondence, records related to her memoir, the Vancity Community Foundation's Margaret Mitchell Fund for Women, photographs of various events, and House of Commons debate transcripts.

Social Credit Women's Auxiliary fonds

Extent: 11 m of textual records, photographic material, and objects
Archival finding aid: MsC-86

The Social Credit Women's Auxiliary was formed as an organization for women in BC to support and become informed about the principles and objectives of Social Credit, and the Social Credit government of the province of British Columbia. A further objective was to support the BC Social Credit party and its candidates during an election. The organization did not advocate for increased participation of women within the party and government, but worked to raise money and awareness for the party.

The fonds consists of records relating to the activities of the Social Credit Women's Auxiliary and materials collected by Flo Dickinson as a member of the auxiliary. These include campaign material, photographs, correspondence, textiles, certificates, newspaper clippings, placards, account books, reports, magazines, brochures, and ephemera.

Darren Wershler-Henry fonds

Extent: [ca. 6 m of multi-media records]
Archival finding aid: MsC-92 [unprocessed]

Darren Wershler-Henry is a non-fiction writer, cultural critic and recovering poet. He has written widely on the shared concerns of literary theory and cultural politics, and his books include FREE as in speech and beer (2002) and The Iron Whim: A Fragmented History of Typewriting (2005). He is the co-author of the renowned Apostrophe Engine poetry programme (with Bill Kennedy) and holds the Concordia University Research Chair in Media and Contemporary Literature in Montreal. His books of poetry include NICHOLODEON: a book of lowerglyphs, and the tapeworm foundry, shortlisted for the Trillium Prize in 2000. He was senior editor of Coach House Books from 1997 to 2002.

The unprocessed fonds consists of correspondence, manuscripts, original art, music, ephemera, books, zines, layouts, grant applications and reports, financial records, academic and teaching papers, T-shirts, notebooks and Wershler-Henry's MA and PhD theses.

J.S. and Lucy Woodsworth family fonds

Extent: 104.5 cm of textual records and other material
Archival finding aid: MsC-204

James Shaver Woodsworth (J.S.) was a leader of the social democratic movement in the early 20th century and a co-founder of the CCF party in 1932. The subject matter of most of this fonds is of a personal familial nature, rather than in-depth political discourse or strategizing. The bulk of content in this fonds consists of correspondence between Lucy Woodsworth and her daughter Grace Woodsworth MacInnis, although there are occasional letters to, from or between her other children Belva, Ralph, Charles, Bruce and Howard. The content of this material is primarily anecdotal as Lucy informs Grace of her day-to-day activities and meetings. There is some mention of her political activities and leanings - particularly of her attendance at a Women's International League conference in 1924 or in correspondence with Grace's husband, Angus MacInnis - but most letters contain news of friends and family, of health and daily activities.

Digital collections

Editorial Cartoons Collection
Over 12,000 original editorial cartoon drawings published in Canadadian newspapers and online between 1952 and the present. Cartoonists included are: Bob Bierman, Graham Harrop, Bob Krieger, John Larter, Brent Lynch, Dan Murphy, Len Norris, Roy Peterson, Adrian Raeside, Ingrid Rice, Jim Rimmer, and Edd Uluschak.

Books and other published material

Special Collections and Rare Books is also home to a number of monographs and journals that focus on politics in British Columbia. The following subject heading links will lead you to resources in Special Collections. Try your own search, or expand to include all of the library’s collections.

Newspapers and journals

B.C. District Union News
The B.C. District Union News, under the direction of editor Harvey Murphy, was published out of Vancouver by the B.C., Yukon and North West Territories locals of the International Union of Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers from 1944 to 1955. B.C. Union News ceased publication in 1955 when the Canadian national paper of the International Union of Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers began publication.

B.C. Newsletter
Monthly British Columbia newsletter from the Progressive Workers Movement, a Vancouver-based, communist labour movement founded by union activist Jack Scott.

B.C. Saturday Sunset
Weekly newspaper published in Vancouver by John P. McConnell and R.S. Ford between 1907 and 1915, the Saturday Sunset offered articles relating to life in Western Canada and business, political and social events and issues, of both local and national significance, as well as fiction and humour pieces. 

British Columbia’s Blackout
Magazine focused on anarchism published between 1978 and 1984.

British Columbia Social Credit League Year Book
Report of the 1972 British Columbia Social Credit League.

The Chinese Times
The longest-running newspaper in the largest Chinese community in Canada, this Vancouver daily newspaper covers both local information and news about China and Asia generally, between 1915 and 1992.

The Energy File
Vancouver publication focusing on energy resources and the environment from 1977 to 1980.

Independent Socialist newspaper based in B.C.'s Lower Mainland, originally published by the Vancouver Socialist Organising Committee (SOC).

The New Canadian
Published from 1939 to 2001, first in Vancouver, then in Kaslo, B.C., later in Winnipeg, and finally in Toronto, the newspaper follows the path of Japanese-Canadians during their eviction from the West Coast and their detention in a series of facilities in B.C.’s interior and the Prairies. 

New Democratic Party of B.C. Annual Convention
Proceedings, resolutions, and reports from the NDP Annual Conventions from 1962 to 1967.

New Directions: Life and Politics in B.C.
Socialist magazine published from 1985 to 1990 by the Pacific New Directions Publishing Society in Vancouver

Canada’s first feminist periodical, published by the Vancouver Women’s Caucus, a women’s liberation group. It was in publication from 1969 to 1975.

Solidarity Times
Weekly newspaper published in Vancouver during the Solidarity crisis of 1983 and ublished articles on a wide range of social issues from a left-wing perspective. It was financed by Operation Solidarity and the B.C. Teachers’ Federation. 

Western Voice
British Columbia newspaper published by the Marxist-Leninist Western Voice Collective in 1976.

Other useful links: Beyond SCRB

SFU Library research guides

Need other resources beyond Special Collections and Rare Books, including current resources on this topic? SFU's subject specialist librarians create research and subject guides to recommend the best resources for your discipline, and the best search strategies, whether you are looking for books or searching specialised databases. Related subject guides include:

Reference works + websites