MUR­DER, HE WROTE

Geist - - Endnotes - —Daniel Fran­cis

Among the un­solved mur­ders in Van­cou­ver’s his­tory, who killed Frank Rogers is one of the most mys­te­ri­ous. The well­known labour rad­i­cal, one of the lead­ers of the 1900-01 Fraser River salmon strike, was gunned down on a Gas­town street in the mid­dle of the night in April 1903 while strolling home from dinner with friends. Rail­way work­ers were on strike against the Cana­dian Pa­cific Rail­way, the CPR had brought in scabs and the wa­ter­front was bub­bling with un­rest. Was Rogers as­sas­si­nated by a CPR hit man? Was it a case of mis­taken iden­tity, or just a case of be­ing in the wrong place at the wrong time? In his new book on the fish­er­men’s strike, Strange New Coun­try: The Fraser River Salmon Strikes of 1900–1901 and the Birth of Mod­ern Bri­tish Columbia (Har­bour Pub­lish­ing), Geoff Meggs re­views the ev­i­dence but, in the end, has to leave the crime un­solved. The head­stone on Rogers’s grave reads “mur­dered by a scab” but the ev­i­dence re­mains in­con­clu­sive. Ac­tu­ally the shoot­ing is a foot­note to Meggs’s larger story: the fish­er­men’s strike and its im­pact on the prov­ince. Meggs, a his­to­rian of the fish­ing in­dus­try as well as a for­mer Van­cou­ver city coun­cil­lor, ar­gues that the strike was the first time that the labour move­ment or­ga­nized across racial lines and di­rectly con­fronted the prov­ince’s small in­dus­trial/ po­lit­i­cal elite. We’ll prob­a­bly never know who killed Frank Rogers, but at least Meggs has brought him back to life in the pages of this book, along with the other labour fire­brands who took on big busi­ness in one of the bit­ter­est strikes in the prov­ince’s his­tory.

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