It was time to head ‘up island’, as they say, and our first stop was Duncan. Duncan is not the prettiest town, redeveloped in the wrong era, though founded in the late 1800’s by an Ontarian named William Chalmers Duncan.
Duncan calls itself the “City of Totems” and it is easy to see why. Literally on every block of the small city, of just under 5000, are beautifully handcrafted totem poles, erected in the late 1980’s.
In the 1980s, Duncan was linked to the 1985 bombings at Narita Airport in Japan and aboard Air India Flight 182, Canada’s largest murder case. Resident Inderjit Singh Reyat purchased bomb parts and a radio used to conceal a bomb at Duncan stores.
Furthermore, it appears that they didn’t just purchase supplies in Duncan – they also tested them in the neighbouring forests;
Less than two weeks prior to the bombings, Reyat and suspected Air India mastermind Talwinder Singh Parmar were observed testing explosives in the woods outside of Duncan by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS).
We didn’t stay long in Duncan, it was rainy, grim and miserable. The streets were empty and it seemed like everything was closed. A ghost town – for Sunday afternoon.
We hopped back in the car and continued our way up the Island Highway to the quaint town of Chemainus, a place I have visited often.
Chemainus is famous for its murals, though it was cute before them. Still filled with historic homes and original buildings from its founding in 1858, Chemainus is very pretty to look at and has great ocean access for picnicking and shell collecting.
The beautiful outdoor murals, 39 of them, have brought life back into the logging town. As has a shift in economic focus. After the fall of the logging industry in the late 1980’s, Chemainus diversified its local economy. It calls itself ‘the little town that DID’.
Live theatre came to town after the muraling project, so did the tourists.
The 3000 or so people from Chemainus refer to themselves as ‘Chemainiacs’!
If you are interested in behaving like a Chemainiac, you might want to head over for some underwater exploration. In 2006 a Boeing 737 aircraft was sunk off the coast to create an artificial reef. Divers are encouraged to stop in and give it a tour.
It was starting to get dark so we zipped off to Nanaimo for a nights rest before checking out incredible MacMillan Park and Cathedral Grove rainforest.
- Chemainus (chemainus.com)
- Chemainus (wikipedia)
- The City of Duncan (duncan.ca)
- Duncan (wikipedia)
- Supreme Court asked to protect Chemainus water for Halalt (timescolonist.com)
- Chemainus historical society granted $150,000 to house new visitor infocentre (cowichannewsleader.com)