Fonds AM1691 - Harry Rankin fonds

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Harry Rankin fonds

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  • Textual record
  • Photograph

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  • Source of title proper: Title based on the provenance of the fonds.

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  • 1939-2016, predominant 1950-2002 (Creation)
    Rankin, Harry

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Physical description

2.1 m of textual records
16 photographs

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Biographical history

Harry Rankin was born in Vancouver on May 8, 1920. The son of garment worker George Rankin, Harry Rankin grew up in East Vancouver's Mount Pleasant district, and was apprenticed to be a baker at age 14 1/2. In 1939, the 19 year old Rankin enlisted with the Seaforth Highlanders Infantry and departed for England in December of the same year. He served overseas until late 1944 and participated in the invasion of Sicily. As a war veteran Rankin was able to obtain a B.A. and a law degree from the University of British Columbia. He was called to the bar and opened his own law practice in 1950. Harry Rankin's involvement with civic politics began in the early 1950s when he joined the Grandview Ratepayers' Association. The first of many unsuccessful bids for election began in 1953 when he ran as an independent candidate for the School Board. In 1957 he decided City Council was a more appropriate arena for his ambitions. He contested aldermanic elections unsuccessfully every year until 1966, when he was finally elected. Rankin attributed his early electoral failures in part to the lack of the kind of organized support that an organized party could provide. In 1968 however, on the initiative of the Vancouver & District Labour Council, the Committee of Progressive Electors (C.O.P.E.) was formed. Rankin ran on the C.O.P.E. aldermanic slate in every election thereafter, and remained on City Council until November 1986. In 1986, he stood as C.O.P.E.'s mayoral candidate and lost to Gordon Campbell of the Non-Partisan Association (N.P.A.).

Besides the role of a lawyer and politician, Rankin was a social activist. Rankin advocated for tenant rights, the working class, Indigenous, Vancouver's downtown eastside, and many disadvantaged groups and individuals.

Harry Rankin passed away in 2002. Further biographical information, particularly about Rankin's career as a lawyer, is available in his autobiography, Rankin's Law: Recollections of a Radical, published by November House, Vancouver, 1975. In 2018, a documentary film, The Rankin File: Legacy of a Radical, was produced by Teresa Alfeld, which traces the life and career of Harry Rankin.

Custodial history

Records were in the custody of Philip Rankin, son of Harry Rankin, but were consulted extensively by Teresa Alfeld in the making of the documentary "The Rankin File."

Scope and content

Series consists of correspondence, newsclippings and articles, legal case files and reports regarding Rankin’s life as a lawyer, a politician and social activist. Fonds is arranged into 6 series: RCMP surveillance reports, Personal and family records, Commentary and columns, Records of municipal affairs, Politics and social justice files, and Legal case files.

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Immediate source of acquisition

Donated by Teresa Alfeld on behalf of Harry Rankin Film Society.


Language of material

  • English

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Access to some records is restricted; see series descriptions for more information on access restrictions.

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Associated materials

For a publication by Rankin see PAM 1971-172.
For Rankin’s role as City Councillor, see Series S471 - Records of Alderman Harry Rankin

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