MURDER, HE WROTE
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.