At Nanaimo Historical Society’s April 13 general meeting, we viewed a recent video of Cowichan’s Old Hillcrest Chinese Cemetery, the premier showing of the onsite interview with Neil Dirom, who helped bring the overgrown land and forgotten history of this cemetery back into the public eye.

Neil has been instrumental in maintaining the cemetery, and documenting the men interred there. The cemetery, one of Cowichan’s unsung ‘ landmarks,’  is tucked away in rural Sahtlam (outside of Duncan BC) on what was the historic Hillcrest Lumber Co. mill property.  Situated immediately beside the Cowichan Valley Trail, the former E&N Lake Cowichan Subdivision, it consists of just over nine acres (3.8 hectares) of open, sloping ground.  The 74-year-old cemetery is a Provincial Historic Site  and serves as a resting place for 127 Chinese Canadians.  It remains a preserved relic of the ongoing influence Chinese Canadians have in the Cowichan area. 

Following the video, there was a Q&A session with members of the NHS programme committee, and guest Imogene Lim, PhD,  ( VIU Department of Anthropology), about Chinese  history on Vancouver Island and British Columbia, and the effects of the head tax on Chinese immigrants and the Chinese Exclusion Act  of 1923, which restricted all Chinese immigration to Canada by narrowly defining the acceptable categories of Chinese immigrants.

We acknowledge that we meet on the traditional territory of the Snuneymuxw people from whom Nanaimo takes its name.