Deep and Sheltered Waters

David R. Gray, with a foreword by Nancy J. Turner & Robert D. Turner

(3 customer reviews)


This book brings to light the fascinating story of a community and place: Tod Inlet, near Victoria, BC. From the original inhabitants from the Tsartlip First Nation to the lost community of immigrant workers from China and India, from a company town to the development of parkland, the wealth of history in this rich area reflects much of the history of the entire province. The story of Tod Inlet and its communities spans from Vancouver Island to the BC coast north to Ocean Falls, south to California, and east to Golden, BC.

David R. Gray draws from interviews with elders of the Tsartlip First Nation, descendants of the Chinese and Sikh workers, and the local community, and from archives held in Victoria and Ottawa. This detailed, illustrated book by an award-winning filmmaker tells the whole story of the natural area, the archaeological sites, the community of Tod Inlet, the Vancouver Portland Cement Company and cement plant (an industrial first), and the development of the Butchart Gardens.

David R. Gray is a researcher, writer and filmmaker. He has curated two Virtual Museum of Canada exhibitions and directed and produced six documentary films, including the award-winning Canadian Soldier Sikhs.

November 2020, paperback, 264 pages

ISBN 978-0-7726-7256-8

Category: .


“One should read Gray’s book not only to bring depth to a space they visit or think of fondly, but, as importantly, to understand the history of who we are and have been, to remember a once thriving community that no longer exists, and challenging truths we are all connected to as British Columbians.”
—Jacquelyn Miller, for BC Studies

“Only a lifelong, passionate adventurer can share so in-depth a history of a place such as Tod Inlet. At a time when Canada itself is at a crossroads of reconciliation, it is refreshing and enlightening that this story is grounded in the narrative of the original inhabitants. Their story attests to thousands of years of traditional occupation and use by the Tsartlip First Nation, for whom the area around Tod inlet is known as SNIDȻEȽ, Place of the Blue Grouse. The fascinating story that unfolds from a most unfortunate circumstance—death—reveals the story of the Sikh settlers and pioneers in Tod Inlet, which in turn is a microcosm of their story in the industrial life of Canada. It is a story of resiliency, resistance and hard work ethics, interwoven with their unparallelled and proud military service to the Crown and Empire.”
—Pardeep Singh Nagra, historian and executive director, Sikh Heritage Museum of Canada

“The warp and weft of Canadian history incorporates many strands. Some are large, others small; some colourful, others drab. The pattern and texture of our past is made from them all. At first glance, Tod Inlet may appear to be one of the less significant parts of our story, but closer examination reveals unexpected riches. This book touches upon some important issues of the last 150 years, including Indigenous-newcomer relations, segregation of whites and Asians, industrialization and resource development, ecological degradation and environmental protection, political activism, and tourism. David Gray has done a masterful job in ferreting out the details of his subject and integrating them into a coherent whole He brings to the task the curiosity and observational skills of a biological scientist and the patience and thoroughness of a historian, along with an innate compassion for his fellow beings, both human and other. The product of a lifelong engagement with the subject, David Gray’s Deep and Sheltered Waters may be read by anyone interested in where we have been as Canadians, and where we are going.”
—Dr. Peter Rider, retired Atlantic Provinces historian and curator, Canadian Museum of History

“With Deep and Sheltered Waters: The History of Tod Inlet, David Gray provides an account, both expansive and personal, of one of Vancouver Island’s most iconic yet misunderstood places . . . an ecological success story as well as a detailed study of the rise and fall of a working community.”
—Matthew Downey, in the Ormsby Review

Additional information

Dimensions 20.32 × 22.85 cm

3 reviews for Deep and Sheltered Waters


    A very interesting and enjoyable read. Love the many pictures! This work is the result of a passionate life interest. It gives the reader a chance to look into the window of time that I never knew existed.

  2. Louis Vincent (verified owner)

    As usual David Gray does a masterful job in detailing the history.
    Very well done!

  3. Terry Germanson

    Before ever reading Deep and Sheltered Waters, each of us in our book club already felt a connection to Tod Inlet. Two of us had been kayaking in its waters. One had lived in nearby Brentwood Bay for nearly twenty years and had observed artifacts of the old Chinese village. Another had gone for frequent walks on Tod Inlet’s shores, with her mind left to wonder what had come before in this place. And we all had visited Butchart Gardens, of course. One of us remembered an iconic photo of Jenny Butchart being hoisted into the air in the sunken garden quarry to begin her plantings.
    So the in-depth history and meticulous research laid out by David Gray about this small corner of the Saanich Inlet was revelatory for us. We delighted in acquiring an expanded perspective about this little place, which had seen human and ecological history since prehistoric times play out on its shores in a particular way. This was the Place of the Blue Grouse, inhabited by indigenous people for more than a millennium, the chosen location for a new industrial enterprise, and a temporary home to Chinese and Sikh workers. In a non-judgmental way, David Gray also documented the ills of the 20th century to which Tod Inlet had been no stranger: racial discrimination toward immigrants, abridgment of treaty rights, violent occupational accidents, industrial degradation of land and water. But the story of Tod Inlet is also a redemptive narrative. The Saanich people eventually regained access to their land and water; the stories of indigenous and immigrant peoples came to light; an environmental movement led to the restoration of natural habitats; a new provincial park was borne on its shores.
    The history of Tod Inlet was deeply personal to its author David Gray and this resonated with us. As a young boy, buried pig skulls found on its shores fascinated him. Artifacts from an abandoned Chinese village ignited his imagination and led to archival research. The chance finding of a photograph of a Sikh cremation at Tod Inlet from the early twentieth Century led to his discovery of a Sikh community who had once worked and lived here. These early explorations influenced the direction of his life as he went on to become a curator and researcher, writer and filmmaker, recently recognized as one of Canada’s most influential modern explorers. We stopped to ponder if our own childhood discoveries had led us in the direction our lives took in such a decisive way.
    Mr. Gray is an active protagonist in the story of Tod Inlet, which makes this book all the more engaging. His telling of the Sikh and Chinese immigrant experiences from interviews with elders and descendants helps reconcile the injustices perpetrated upon these communities, as did his films Searching for the Sikhs of Tod Inlet and The Chinese Workers of Tod Inlet. Mr. Gray also participated in the environmental activist movement which ultimately saved Tod Inlet from developers such as Genstar, and which led to the creation of Gowlland Tod Provincial Park. In a letter to the Colonist, he argued, “Tod Inlet marine park development perfect complement to Butchart Gardens.” He successfully nominated this place as an historic site in Canada. And he served on the planning team for the C3 (Coast to Coast to Coast ) expedition which notably ended its 150-day journey in Tod Inlet to commemorate 150 years of Confederation.

    We did not view Deep and Sheltered Waters as being a particularly balanced account of Tod Inlet’s history. The Sikhs had lived in Tod Inlet only a brief time, yet were generously represented in the narrative due to Mr. Gray’s particular interest in this community. The creation of Butchart Garden from the scarred lime quarries is a major, fascinating chapter in the history of Tod Inlet, but is not extensively covered here, though is elsewhere. All of this was fine with us, as this book represents Mr. Gray’s particular take on Tod Inlet history. We were grateful that he included an account of Mary Parsell, the wife of the Portland Cement Company engineer. She was our favorite character. We admired her pluck, energy, and organizational talents in a pioneer setting. In addition to raising children, she ran the post office, organized social events, held church services in her kitchen, and maintained a memoir of her experiences. When a boulder from the quarry blasting landed close to her house, she remarked matter-of-factly, “…if it had been a direct hit, there would have been plenty of trouble.” Her rapport with the Chinese workers and her offering of English lessons to them in her home led us to view her as a compassionate and progressive woman ahead of her time. She was a true pioneer woman with a heart of gold.
    Many of the particular details provided in the book stood out for us. We found it interesting that the Tsartlip people harvested herring roe from cedar branches they towed and then anchored. When the Tsartlips left for traditional trips in the summer, we could visualize them swimming their horses across Tod Inlet to pasture at Willis Point. Small personal facts such as the children calling the local locomotive the “Toonerville Trolley” and the song Nothing But Cement set to the tune of “My Bonnie Lies over the Ocean” made life in the industrial community seem relatable. We were struck by the irony that a rare flower called the phantom orchid thrives in the limestone soil of Tod Inlet created by limestone mining. One of us has seen the phantom orchid around Tod Inlet.
    As we concluded our conversation, we gave thought to who might be interested in Deep and Sheltered Waters. Since we had found the book such an engaging read, we figured that anyone with a connection to the area, like us, would enjoy it. One of us had given the book as a gift to a relative in Brentwood Bay and it had been a big hit. We thought it would be a good idea for the Butchart Gardens to draw attention to their connection to Tod Inlet and to promote this book. We went on to consider whether readers previously unacquainted with Tod Inlet could also find the book interesting and worthwhile. We decided in the end that Deep and Sheltered Waters could have a broader appeal. It seemed to us that any reader interested in the human and ecological history of BC and Canada could be charmed and inspired by the particulars of this account and the author’s devotion and dedication to this unique yet universal place.

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