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Empire Cannery

Green label features the image of a salmon and the words "Sunflower Talls. Todds British Columbia Salmon packed by J.H. Todd and Sons Ltd. Victoria B.C."

One pound salmon can label from the Todd & Son’s Sunflower Brand. Gulf of Georgia Cannery Society Archives G2009.013.012

Empire became the main cannery for the Victoria-based J.H. Todd & Sons.


48°26’51.4″N 123°26’18.0″W

The Empire Cannery was the headquarters for Victoria-based J.H. Todd & Sons. It was built at Esquimalt Harbour by J.H. Todd & Sons in 1905 during a boom year for the salmon canning industry.  J.H. Todd and Sons leased the land from the Esquimalt Indian Reserve which ensured access to a labour force for the cannery.

J.H. Todd & Sons was the only company in B.C. given permission to operate fish traps in salt water. These traps were economically advantageous for the company; they did not need to employ a fishing fleet. Salmon caught in traps were not damaged by nets and were fresher than fish transported in collection boats or packers before being canned. The traps were set up in the nearby Sooke Harbour.

J.H. Todd & Sons operated the fish traps at Sooke Harbour for 60 years. When J.H. Todd died in 1951, his sons took over the business until the company was bought out by B.C. Packers Ltd in 1954. The site served as a fish camp until 1969 when the facility was torn down.

Empire Cannery buildings in the distance with water in the foreground.

Empire Cannery, Esquimalt, c. 1905. Image 1985 4 208 courtesy of the City of Richmond Archives.

A group of men stand on a wharf beside a fish trap full of salmon.

Fishtrap owned by J.H. Todd and Sons, 1930s. Gulf of Georgia Cannery Society Archives 1998.001.023