Verb: Remedy or set right (an undesirable or unfair situation): "the power to redress the grievances of our citizens".
Noun: Remedy or compensation for a wrong or grievance.  
As a society we have , in the last few years, tried to redress some of our collective inherited historical wrongs, for instance, the Chinese Head Tax, internment of Canadian citizens of Japanese decent, declaring the Quebecois as distinct, the apology for the Residential School tragedy and are now finally facing up to the fact that this country and in particular British Columbia has not yet come to agreed upon conditions of cohabitation with the Indigenous peoples of this land. I put to you that another historical wrong persists to this day and is now manifest to the detriment of our society. I refer to robber baron Robert Dunsmiur's aquisition of approximately one-fifth of Vancouver Island and the control and disposition of that property which has left the ordinary citizens as mere by-standers to government supported corporate avarice.
'He was 44 yrs old when he discovered the outcropping, but before his premature death in 1889 Dunsmuir established an empire based on coal from his mines at Wellington, and on the huge land grant he received from the Canadian Government as payment for building a railway link between Nanaimo and Victoria.

This agreement not only gave him one-fifth of the Island, but all coal, coal oil, ores, stones, clay, marble, slates, mines and minerals in or under the land. He was well on his was to becoming BC's leading capitalist. He also acquired a reputation for ruthless labour practices, which helped to contribute to his burgeoning wealth and which left thousands of his miners feeling resentful and oppressed.

The Dunsmuir legacy, however floundered on the lack of heirs in the third generation and in 1910 the coal interest was sold to Canadian Collieries, and by 1930 most of the fortune had been dissipated.  

What remains of the Dunsmuir legend in the coal towns of Vancouver Island, is a legacy of oppression.  The name is synonymous among coal miners with the tyranny of the boss.'

'After much shrewd bargaining in Ottawa Dunsmuir agreed to construct the railway in return for a subsidy of $750,000 in cash and a parcel of land comprising some two million acres – fully one-fifth of Vancouver Island. Significantly, the land grant came with “all coal, coal oil, ores, stones, clay, marble, slates, mines, minerals, and substances whatsoever in, on or under the lands so to be granted.” He received also all foreshore rights for the lands, all mining privileges (including the right to mine under adjacent seabeds), and the retention of all coal and other minerals taken from the land. Additionallyas contractor he was permitted to cut whatever timber and erect whatever structures he saw fit to build the line. To promote settlement, provision was made for the sale of farmlands to homesteaders at one dollar per acre. Squatters of at least one year’s residence were allowed to buy up to 160 acres, and those settlers with title were allowed to retain their holdings, but virtually all else would go to the contractor in right of performance. It was, in short, a major give-away of British Columbia’s natural resources.

Although Dunsmuir had been chosen to prevent the Americans from gaining control of the railway, the lands, and the area’s mineral rights, he was not averse to exploiting American talent and experience in constructing the railway. The contract which Dunsmuir drew up for the Esquimalt and Nanaimo Railway named himself, his son James, and his son-in-law John Bryden as contractors, and Charles Crocker, Mark Hopkins, Leland Stanford, and Collis Potter Huntington, all officials of the Southern Pacific Railroad, as subcontractors. Construction began at Esquimalt on 26 Feb. 1884 and proceeded on schedule. Sir John A. Macdonald*, prime minister of Canada, drove the “last spike” at Shawnigan Lake on 13 Aug. 1886, and by September trains were running into Victoria along lines laid from Esquimalt across Indian lands Dunsmuir had managed to have expropriated for his use.'

From the dictionary of Canadian Biography © 2000 University of Toronto/Université Laval

until 1910, when the main Dunsmuir interests were sold to William Mackenzie* and Donald Mann*.

Daniel T. Gallacher


From Mel McClachlan…



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