“Never on Sunday” – the Holiday Shopping Referendum

Never on Sunday front page

Election brochure. City of Richmond Archives, MR 35, File 4569 (1981)

Many people today are surprised to learn that prior to 1981, most stores in Richmond were prohibited from opening on Sundays and holidays.  Provincial legislation, namely the Holiday Shopping Regulation Act, was enacted in 1980, and provided a means by which an individual municipality could ask its citizens whether they wished to remove restrictions on Sunday and holiday shopping.

As a result, Richmond Municipal Council decided to add to the November 21, 1981 municipal election ballot the following referendum question:

“Are you in favour of Richmond By-law No. 4016 which in summary would permit all retail businesses to carry on business on a Sunday and any other holiday as defined by the ‘Holiday Shopping Regulations Act’?”

Two groups emerged in the community to promote each side of the referendum question, a question that was being asked on a number of municipal election ballots throughout the province.

Back page of election brochure. City of Richmond Archives, SE 35, File 4569 (1981)

Back page of brochure. City of Richmond Archives, MR 35, File 4569 (1981)

The “Committee Opposed to Sunday and Holiday Shopping” was formed as an unusual alliance of church groups, labour unions, major retail stores, and women’s groups.  Using the slogans “Never on Sunday” and the “Price of Convenience”, the committee urged that Sunday should be “a day of rest” for church goers and workers, the latter comprised of a large number of women who worked as retail store clerks.  The Committee warned that if shopping was allowed, “Sundays and holidays would soon become another rat race like any other day of the week, with traffic jams, noise, congestion and frustration for everyone.”

On the other side, some larger, newly-established stores along with a wide-range of citizens argued for the right to shop on Sunday, listing various benefits including convenience, emergency needs, rights of consumers, and promotion of local shopping rather than cross-border shopping or shopping in municipalities which had already adopted Sunday and holiday shopping bylaws.

Lumberland Brochure

Election advertising. City of Richmond Archives, MR 35, File 4569 (1981)

By a margin of 14,434 “Yes” votes to 8,265 “No” votes, Bylaw 4016 received the assent of electors and was adopted by Council on November 23, 1981.  Retail shopping on Sundays and holidays was here to stay.

Bylaw 4016 as adopted. City of Richmond Archives Bylaws

Bylaw 4016 as adopted. City of Richmond Archives Bylaws

Focus on the Record – Election Records

With municipal election day nearing (Saturday, November 15, 2014), we thought it timely to provide an overview of the records in the holdings of the City of Richmond Archives relating to past elections. These records not only provide evidence of election procedures, nominations and final results, but also document the evolution of voting rights and voting systems in the municipality.

Official election results, dating back to the first municipal election in 1880, can be found in the reports of the Returning Officer/Chief Election Officer. These reports form part of the minutes of Council, and are accessible to researchers at the Archives on microfilm. The original minutes are housed in the Archives’ vault. The reports document the precise vote count for all candidates and for all referenda or plebiscites put to the electorate. It is interesting to note that although the first election for Council was carried out in January, 1880, the first actual balloting occurred with the election for Council of 1889. Prior to this date, all candidates had been elected by acclamation.

Council minutes, and various bylaws, also document the establishment of a ward system for Council representation. Initially, the municipality was divided into three wards but for the municipal election of 1891, five wards were established. All voters in the municipality could vote for Reeve (the term used before the adoption of the title “Mayor”) but those registered on the voters’ list for a specific ward or district could only vote for a councillor nominated to represent that ward. Ward 1 constituted Sea Island, Ward 2 the northwest part of Lulu Island, Ward 3 Steveston and area, Ward 4 most of the South Arm and parts of eastern Richmond, and Ward 5 eastern Richmond. The ward system was discontinued after the municipal election of 1946, when an “at-large” system was adopted for the election of councillors.

Another important group of election records at the Archives are the official voters’ lists. They provide not only detailed listings of property owners and residents in Richmond but also illustrate the evolution of the voting system and the municipal franchise. The first complete voters list at the Archives dates to 1915. It is assumed that earlier lists were lost in the fire of 1913 which destroyed the original Town Hall.

Voters List 1915 Front Cover

Front page of voter’s list, 1915. City of Richmond Archives, MR35, File VL-1915.

The 1915 list shows voters registered by ward and also contains the names of women who owned property in the municipality, demonstrating how women were given the right to vote in municipal elections prior to being granted the right to vote in federal and provincial elections.

Election Ballot - 1931 - Reeve

Election Ballot for Reeve, 1931. City of Richmond Archives, MR35, File 4501 – Election Procedure.

Election Ballot - 1931 - Councillor Ward 3

Election Ballot for Councillor, Ward 3, 1931. City of Richmond Archives, MR35, File 4501 – Election Procedure.

The voters’ lists also show how provincial legislation discriminated against the rights of First Nations people and people of South Asian, Japanese and Chinese ethnicity. The names of property owners of South Asian descent first appear on the voters list of 1948, following changes to provincial statute in 1947 giving them the right to vote in municipal elections. The names of First Nations, Japanese-Canadian, and Chinese-Canadian property owners do not appear on the voters list until 1949, again following changes in provincial legislation in 1948 granting them the municipal franchise.

Voters’ lists for municipal elections of 1915 through 1985 are available to researchers at the Archives. Other election records available include extensive election files, including the records of the Court of Revision, all of which document the procedures carried out by municipal officers to ensure the validity of the election process.

Ted Youngberg and Election Staff 1965

Municipal Clerk Ted Youngberg with election staff, Elaine Smith, Bill Lane and Bev Harper, 1965. City of Richmond Archives Photograph 1986 16 4.

[Note – this is an updated version of an article first published in the Fall 2011 issue of the Archives News]