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Great Northern Cannery | Defiance

Cannery buildings, wharves and boats.

Great Northern Cannery, 1920, Image CVA-SFN-1547 courtesy of the City of Vancouver Archives.

Great Northern Cannery is an example of a plant that saw its success improve when it started canning Chum salmon.


49°20’27.1″N 123°13’58.2″W

Great Northern Cannery was built in West Vancouver in 1900, despite the strike that shook the canning industry that year. Millerd and Co. purchased the plant in 1935 and it became their main plant for many years. Great Northern only started to see real success in 1936 when it began canning Chum salmon.

With the beginning of the Second World War, Great Northern began canning herring to send to Europe. Until this point, Norway had been the leading producer of canned herring, but when they were occupied by Germany, the B.C. canning industry picked up the market.

The cannery operated continuously until it was sold to the Fisheries Research Board in 1968. It is now used as a fisheries research center. The key element of success for the site is its proximity to a fresh water creek, which today supplies water for the research center, but was also essential to the cannery.

Great Northern is notable for the accounts of daily life from the people living and working in the “walled city”. Many of these residents were Japanese and First Nations families. Josephine Charlie was one such worker, who fought for the rights of women working there.

Label features bold text and an illustration of a salmon steak on a plate.

Great Northern Brand label produced by Francis Millerd & Co., Ltd. at the Great Northern Cannery. Gulf of Georgia Cannery Society Archives G2001.004.023

Gillnet boats and a sealer moored at the Great Northern Cannery docks

Sealer vessel, Borealis, at Great Northern Cannery wharf October 22, 1917. Image BC_1532_1301_022 courtesy of UBC Special Collections

Cannery buildings on the shore viewed from the water.

Great Northern Cannery (originally the Defiance Cannery), 1908. Image 0268.WVA.RAH courtesy of the West Vancouver Archives.

Aerial photograph of the cannery complex.

Great Northern Cannery, 1960. Image 1128.WVA.RAH courtesy of the West Vancouver Archives.