Footage of UBC's Great Trek

Posted by Daniel on Feb 10, 2011

I recently came across this delightful old film of the Great Trek, the protest march by UBC students in October 1922 that led to the construction of the Point Grey campus. You can view it on YouTube here.

Here's the background. A new university had been promised since 1908. Meanwhile classes were housed in a set of ramshackle buildings, the "Fairview shacks", beside the present site of the Vancouver General Hospital. The facility was so overwhelmed that some students attended classes in a tent. But the war, and then government foot-dragging, delayed the new campus.

Finally students decided to take matters into their own hands. They organized a huge protest rally downtown on October 28, 1922, then piled into streetcars to ride out to the Point Grey site. Disembarking from the trolleys, they walked the rest of the way along a trail through the forest out to the site where the girders of one unfinished building stood. The film has a great scene that shows the milling protestors suddenly form themselves up into a giant UBC.

The protest, which later became known as the Great Trek, worked. The government was shamed into recommencing construction and the first classes began at the Point Grey campus in the fall of 1925.