Patricia E. Roy, a native of British Columbia, is professor emeritus of History at the University of Victoria where she taught Canadian history for many years. Her own research has been mainly In the field of British Columbia history and she is best known for her trilogy of books on the responses to Chinese and Japanese immigrants: A White Man's Province (1989); The Oriental Question (2003), and The Triumph of Citizenship (2007). All were published by UBC Press. She continues to publish articles in that field. Her most recent book is Boundless Optimism: Richard McBride's British Columbia (2012), also published by UBC Press.

Patricia Roy has also the leading academic authority on anti-Asian policies in British Columbia. Born in New Westminster in 1939, she received a B.A. (1960) and Ph.D. (1970) from UBC and an M.A. (1963) from the University of Toronto. Her M.A. thesis was "Railways, Politicians and the Development of Vancouver as a Metropolitan Centre, 1886-1929". She began teaching history at the University of Victoria in 1966.

Her writing career has chiefly examined how and why British Columbians changed their originally tolerant attitudes towards Asian immigrants and workers during colonial times, opting for outright racist practices and rhetoric to preserve 'a white man's province'. In Mutual Hostages and The Triumph of Citizenship she examines how the fear of physical attacks on the Japanese in Canada might have given the Japanese military an excuse to take reprisals against Canadian and British prisoners of war and, that this concern, rather than doubts about the loyalty of Japanese Canadians, explains the removal of the Japanese from the coast. She quotes Prime Minister Mackenzie King's diary entry on February 19, 1942: "It is going to be a very great problem to move the Japanese and particularly to deal with the ones who are naturalized Canadians or Canadian-born. There is every possibility of riots. Once that occurs, there will be repercussions in the Far East against our own prisoners. Public prejudice is so strong in B.C. that it is going to be difficult to control the situation." A follow-up study, The Triumph of Citizenship: The Japanese and Chinese in Canada, 1941-67, was nominated for the Hubert Evans Non-Fiction Prize in 2008.

Roy is also the co-author of British Columbia: The Illustrated History of Canada (Oxford, 2005), volume five in the series, containing approximately 150 paintings, drawings and maps. "Virtually the pictures were created by men, and virtually all those men were of European background, especially British," they write.

Premier of B.C. from 1903 to 1915, Richard McBride was a devout Imperialist but a dedicated British Columbian, as outlined by Patricia Roy in her political biography Boundless Optimism: Richard McBride's British Columbia (UBC Press $95). While quarreling with Ottawa, he spurred economic growth and the expansion of railways.

Review of the author's work by BC Studies:
British Columbia: Land of Promises
Mutual Hostages: Canadians and Japanese during the Second World War
Shashin: Japanese Canadian Photography to 1942
White Man's Province: British Columbia Politicians and Chinese and Japanese Immigrants, 1858-1914
Vancouver: An Illustrated History
Boundless Optimism: Richard McBride's British Columbia


The Chinese in Canada (Canadian Historical Association, 1985) with Jin-Yan Tan.

A History of British Columbia: Selected Readings (Copp Clark Pittman, 1989) editor. 978-0773046801

A White Man's Province: British Columbia Politicians and the Chinese and Japanese, 1858-1914 (UBC Press, 1989)

Vancouver: An Illustrated History (Lorimer 1980)

Mutual Hostages: Canadians and Japanese During the Second World War (University of Toronto Press, 1990) with J.L. Granatstein, Masako Iino, and Hiroko Takamura. Japanese translation by Masako Iino, and Hiroko Takamura. (Minerva Press, Tokyo, 1993)

The Oriental Question: Consolidating a White Man's Province, 1914-41 (UBC Press, 2003)

British Columbia: The Illustrated History of Canada (Oxford, 2005). With John Herd Thompson.

The Triumph of Citizenship: The Japanese and Chinese in Canada, 1941-67 (UBC Press, 2007) 9780774813808

Contradictory Impulses: Canada and Japan in the Twentieth Century (UBC Press, 2008). Co-edited with Greg Donaghy.

Boundless Optimism: Richard McBride's British Columbia (UBC Press, 2012) $95.00 978-0-7748-2388-3

[Alan Twigg / BCBW 2017] "Racism" "Japanese" "Chinese" "History of B.C."
The Collectors: A History of the Royal British Columbia Museum and Archives by Patricia E. Roy (Royal B.C. Museum $39.95)

Review by Chad Reimer

Some 130 years ago, the province’s foremost museum in Victoria was given a dual mandate.

First, it was “to secure and preserve specimens relating to the natural history of the Province…and to obtain information…increase and diffuse knowledge regarding the same.”

Second, it was “to collect anthropological material relating to the aboriginal races of the Province.”

Patricia Roy sets out to write the history of both those initiatives in The Collectors: A History of the Royal British Columbia Museum and Archives.
Her clear and carefully-researched narrative follows three main streams—natural history, Indigenous peoples and archives—from the founding of the Provincial Museum (1886) and Provincial Archives (1908) to the 2003 merger of the two into the Royal British Columbia Museum and Archives.
Natural history received the most attention and funding from the outset, in step with the subsequent branding of the province on license plates as “supernatural British Columbia.”

The second stream was a harder sell. Well into the 20th century, the museum was stuck in its original salvage mode, collecting “curios,” artifacts, and even human remains of what were widely seen as B.C.’s “vanishing Indians.”

The work of anthropologist Wilson Duff and Kwakwaka’wakw totem-pole carver Mungo Martin for the museum were among the first to treat Indigenous cultures as living, breathing entities.

The third stream—the Provincial Archives—suffered through budget cuts and indifferent archivists until more professional footing was afforded in the 1940s.

Heretofore, the work of Alma Russell, Muriel Cree, and Madge Wolfenden to stamp some sense and order on the collections has gone largely unheralded. Roy has located photos that bring these remarkable women to public notice.
Of course, some mistakes were made along the way. In what must go down as one of the worst decisions in the institution’s history, officials turned down an offer made by Emily Carr to house her collection of 200 paintings of totem poles and villages in a newly proposed provincial art gallery.

(Six decades later, when a newly elected Social Credit government wanted to sell the province to the world, it proposed a European tour of work by B.C.’s most famous artist. They were told neither the museum nor archives had enough Carr paintings to mount such an exhibit.)

At times, Roy’s account pulls its punches when a sharper critique might be appropriate.

During much of the institution’s history, Indigenous peoples were seen as a dying, or at least diminishing, race, and their cultures treated as static and pre-modern.

It is not enough to say, as Roy does, that museum personnel were simply expressing the attitudes of the times, nor to categorize their approach as “paternalistic.”

We need to know how, over its long history, the museum’s efforts contributed to the wider view that the immigrant peoples who took over the province were somehow superior to the Indigenous peoples they dispossessed.

This viewpoint was not so much paternalistic as colonialistic.

In the later chapters of The Collectors, Roy does an admirable job of describing how the museum’s stance towards Indigenous peoples evolved from its early days as collector, through the breakthroughs of Duff and Martin, to the most recent efforts that build on the active participation and initiative of Indigenous peoples.

Roy’s discussion helps us navigate current issues— such as the repatriation of artifacts to their rightful owners—and consider the way forward.

The joining of natural history and Indigenous peoples in one public body was a product of the late Victorian era, which viewed Indigenous peoples as part of the natural world— static and passive, either the backdrop to the real history of colonial “settlers,” or as specimens to be studied.

Roy paraphrases the criticism of Gloria Frank, a member of the Nuu-chah-nulth Nation and then a graduate student, who in a 2000 BC Studies article, “That’s My Dinner on Display,” expressed resentment at “seeing her people displayed as anthropological specimens.”

The way forward may be to create two provincial museums: a B.C. Museum of Natural History on one hand, and a Museum of Human History of British Columbia on the other.

The archives, which lost much of its autonomy when the government merged it with the museum in 2003, could be attached to the latter and regain some of its autonomy.

“The museum is now working on a storyline that will present a single inclusive narrative of the history of Indigenous peoples in B.C. and of later arrivals,” Roy writes.

Meanwhile, Patricia Roy’s overview provides a welcome starting point for re-inventing its subject. 9780772672001

Chad Reimer wrote Writing British Columbia History, 1784-1958 (UBC Press, 2010) and Chilliwack’s Chinatowns: A History (Chinese Canadian Historical Society of B.C., Gold Mountain Stories, 2011). His latest book is Before We Lost the Lake: A Natural and Human History of Sumas Valley (Caitlin Press, 2018).

[BCBW 2019]