Andrew Hamilton of the Port Edward Historical Society looks on as Anne Rowse of Northwest Community signs a partnering agreement.

North Pacific Cannery celebrates 125 years

The themes were legacy and vibrancy at the North Pacific Cannery's 125th anniversary celebration on Saturday.

The themes were legacy and vibrancy at the North Pacific Cannery’s 125th anniversary celebration on Saturday, but there was also an eye towards the future.

Stephanie Puleo, the cannery’s operations manager, hosted the birthday ceremony for the wooden, rustic mainstay on the Skeena River and Port Edward Historical Society board members were excited to share a slew of new funding opportunities and partnerships that will help the west coast of North America’s oldest fish cannery thrive in a modern world, without the fishing boom of decades past.

“Like a lot of heritage sites across the country, we don’t get any federal or provincial funding, so it’s certainly an obstacle for us,” said the historical society’s president Andrew Hamilton.

“But the support we get is from the community in terms of volunteerism and local business contributing and people donating artifacts that you see throughout the site.”

The society announced four main ambitions they would like to carry out during the next few years for the cannery, currently designated a national historic site. The first is to achieve a United Nations Environment, Society and Culture Organization (UNESCO) designation, a move that would automatically put the cannery on Parks Canada’s list of candidates to receive funding.

“Salmon-canning was the first industry that linked B.C. to the global economy and brought people around the world to work in the industry,” said Hamilton.

“I would argue that without salmon-canning, B.C. might not have become a part of Canada.”

The board’s second goal is to become an employment platform, giving people “training and experience in complex maritime construction” with the developments planned for restoring the site.

The third ambition is to connect the salmon-canning industry to the fishing industry. Cultural organizations, volunteers and museum partnerships will be key in this, said Hamilton.

The fourth, final and most costly initiative the board will take on is the complete restoration of the working dock area of the cannery to transform it into a marquee community gathering space which will be designated the “main conservation project over the next two years and will be the basis of our $1.8 million capital campaign,” said Hamilton.

The Prince Rupert Port Authority will be helping to contribute to that total with their recently-announced $200,000 contribution through their community investment fund to complete the working dock’s transformation.

Northwest Community College also signed a partnership with the cannery, who will continue to bring students inside the hallowed walls of the site.

The commemorative first plank was nailed in and cake and refreshments were served with Prince Rupert Mayor Jack Mussallem, Port Edward Mayor Dave MacDonald, North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice, Port Authority director of public affairs Ken Veldman and Northwest Community College regional director Ann Rowse, among others on hand, to take part in the celebration.