Series S20 - City Clerk's Office subject files - including Council supporting documents

New Archives building under construction. Alderman R.K. Gervin Alderman J.D. Cornett Alderman G.C. Miller Alderman A. Proctor Alderman A.W. Fisher Alderwoman L.E. Jamieson

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City Clerk's Office subject files - including Council supporting documents

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  • Textual record

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  • 102.3 m of textual records
  • ca. 50 photographs

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Administrative history

The basis for the authority of the City of Vancouver's City Council is the first Vancouver Act of Incorporation of April 6, 1886 enacted by the Government of the Province of British Columbia. The Act set out the powers, functions, and some procedures relating to the government of the City of Vancouver, and required election of a City Council, the governing body of the local government. Although the City of Vancouver funds the Library, the schools, and the parks, each of these have their own governing boards. The Act of Incorporation (more recently called the Vancouver Charter) has been amended frequently, and is periodically revised and consolidated. The Act has defined the increasing land parameters of Vancouver. In 1886 Vancouver extended from the West End and Alma Road in the west, to Nanaimo Street in the east, and 16th Avenue to the south. In 1911, District Lot 301 and the Townsite of Hastings were annexed (so that Vancouver then extended east to Boundary Road, and south to 25th and 29th Avenues in some areas of the eastern half of the city). Then in 1929, the municipalities of South Vancouver and Point Grey were amalgamated with Vancouver (to result in present-day boundaries to the south and west). City Council's powers may be exercised by by-law or resolution, according to the provisions of the Charter. Powers have included: creation and maintenance of "public works" (now often referred to as "the infrastructure"); land and building regulation; provision of police and fire protection; maintaining health standards; provision of cultural and recreation services; and tax collection through property taxes, business licenses, and other fees. Local government is responsible to the provincial government, according to the Municipal Act of British Columbia. Some of the relationships with provincial and federal government are intricate, as program requirements are legislated from above, and some program funding is provided by senior governments. The Mayor is the president of Council according to British parliamentary traditions. In order to carry out its functions Council has the authority to determine the internal organization of the governance and bureaucracy. Until 1956 Council was formally involved in all aspects of the operations of the City through the "Council Committee" system. The system was seen as increasingly cumbersome and ineffective, so the Board of Administration was created to take care of managing operations, all the bureaucracy's administrative and service functions except governance (as of 1974 the Board was replaced by the City Manager). Standing committees, as subdivisions of the major aspects of the business of Council, have always existed.
The responsibilities of the City Clerk were established with the Act of Incorporation in 1886, which declared the City Clerk to be the Returning Officer of the City (the official responsible for voters' lists and elections). Additional duties included purchasing supplies and were somewhat undefined. With the clarifications of the 1900 Act of Incorporation, formalized responsibilities included recording Council minutes, keeping custody of the by-laws, and maintaining financial records. The Clerk also received all mail directed to the City. A 1912 by-law assigned responsibility for facilitating communication between the citizens, the Mayor, Council, and Council's committees to the City Clerk. In a 1953 Act of Incorporation amendment, the Clerk was named as custodian of the City seal. With the exception of financial functions, which long ago passed to financial officers, the Clerk's responsibilities have remained remarkably consistent. The primary functions over time have been: taking minutes for the meetings of City Council and related bodies; keeping the records of the City of Vancouver as required by the Vancouver Charter; carrying out correspondence on behalf of Council; keeping all records related to City Council decision making (including large volumes of supporting documents); assembling voters' lists and carrying out elections (for Council, the Park Board, the School Board, and on plebiscites); providing communication, information, and public relations services, including responsibility for civic ceremonies; and, since 1970, responsibility for the Archives. From 1886 to 1974, the City Clerk reported directly to Council; from 1974 the position has been reporting to the City Manager's Office. Although the formal organization of the City Clerk's Department has in recent years consisted of a number of divisions - the Council secretariat, the Voters' List Division, periodically a small Public Relations / Communications Division, and the Archives and Records Division (since 1970) - in practice, the Office of the City Clerk has included all divisional sections except the Archives. During some periods the Office of the City Clerk was more commonly referred to as the City Clerk's Office, though the former has prevailed.

The following individuals have served as City Clerk:
Thomas Francis McGuigan, 1886-1905
Arthur McEvoy, 1905-1907
William McQueen, 1907-1931
Charles Jones, 1931-1935
W. L. Woodford, 1935
Fred Howlett, 1935-1945 (acting 1935-1937)
Ronald Thompson, 1945-1973
Douglas Haig Little, 1973-1978
Robert Henry, 1978-1987
Maria Kinsella, 1987-1997
Ulli Watkiss, 1998-2001
Syd Baxter, 2001-2008
Marg Coulson 2008- (acting 2008-2009)

For more historical information on the above bodies see the inventory for the City Council and the Office of the City Clerk fonds. Administrative histories for other creators in this fonds (e.g. Airport Board) are given at the series level.

Related Resources:
For South Vancouver and Point Grey municipality Council, City Clerk's, and all other retained archival records dating from before amalgamation with the City of Vancouver in 1929, see the Corporation of the District of South Vancouver fonds and the Corporation of Point Grey fonds. The offices forming City Council, the mayor and aldermen (now called councillors), are arranged as the Mayor's Office fonds and the Councillors' office fonds.

Custodial history

Scope and content

Series consists of administrative and operational files on any matters dealt with by the Office of the City Clerk over time, in its and the individual Clerks' roles as Council secretariat, elections office(r), and information office(r). The scope of City and outside bodies represented, the topics covered, and the types of records contained (primarily correspondence, but also including minutes, contracts, grant applications, etc.) is immense. There is a problem of organization with Office of the City Clerk's files in that, during some periods, files contained here were organized separately (therefore are separate series), while during other periods, those same files were integrated here (e.g. Traffic Commission, Council committees, etc.) Database searching alleviates the problem. Arranged in annual sets (date ranges filed by latest year represented) and therein alphabetically by file title (please note that there is tremendous inconsistency in file title formulation during some periods, see arrangement note below).

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Physical condition

Immediate source of acquisition

Records from 1886-1955 were transferred from the Voters List building, Yukon Street, in 1971 and from the City Clerk's vault and vault no. 2, City Hall, in 1972.


The over 8,000 file titles in this series were previously known by several series titles, as follows. Files located at bays 10, 13-20, 67-68, 88-90, 82, 142-143, 22 and 27 were previously known as "Inward correspondence, 1886-1975" (series 20); files located at bays 16-22 were previously known as "Operational files, predominant 1971-1975" (series 21); files located at bays 81, 79, 141-142 were previously known as "Special subjects, predominant 1962-1972" (series 23); files located at boxes 42-B-7, 80-C-7, and shelf 80-D were previously known as "Standing Committee on Finance and Administration subject files, 1962-1970 (series 25); files located at boxes 142-C-5 to 142-C-6 (files 1-3) were previously known as "Standing Committee on Planning and Development subject files, 1969-1975" (series 26); files located at shelf 82-A were previously known as "From the City Clerk's Office, predominant 1935-1966" (series 57); files located at boxes 594-A-8, 594-B-5 and 594-C-1 were previously known as "McGuigan family fonds" (Add.MSS 920, City Clerk's Office, Inward correspondence).

The filing system was not followed consistently with the result that letters on one subject may be found under a variety of headings (for example, letters concerning the British Columbia Sugar Refining Company may be filed under "B" for "British Columbia", "S" for "sugar", or "R" for "B.T. Rogers"). Please note also that every year has files designated "Alphabetical file", which contain correspondence from organizations and individuals who were not assigned a separate subject file (and there is filing inconsistency here as well, i.e. a subject file may exist, yet some items pertaining to that subject ended up in "Alphabetical file").
Photographic images in this series have been assigned catalogue numbers with the prefix CVA 433.

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Availability of other formats

Early files (most to 1918) have been microfilmed (MCR 3 and M 107 as indicated on boxes in stacks).

Restrictions on access

Some files less than 100 years old restricted for privacy reasons; please consult the archivist.

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Finding aids

File list available.

Associated materials

series 29 (Outward correspondence, 1886-1975) is the counterpart to this series which was formerly called "Inward correspondence", however, series 29 consists solely of letter press books containing the Clerk's outgoing correspondence and this series contains every other document on a given subject including (variously complete) outward correspondence (once the approximate date of a given subject has been identified from series 20, researchers might wish to consult that period in series 29); this series subdivided after 1974 (as scheduled at that time), therefore continued by series 60 (Housekeeping subject files, selected files only retained by Archives) and series 62 (Operational subject files, all retained).

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No further accruals expected.

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