Prince Rupert is a port city in the province of British Columbia, Canada. Located on Kaien Island, Prince Rupert is the land, air, and water transportation hub of British Columbia's North Coast, and has a population of 12,508 people (Statistics Canada, 2011).
Prince Rupert was incorporated on March 10, 1910. It was named for Prince Rupert of the Rhine, who was first Governor of the Hudson's Bay Company, as the result of an open competition held by the railway, the prize for which was $250. Prior to the opening of the GTP, the business centre on the North Coast was Port Essington on the Skeena River. After the founding of Prince Rupert at the western terminus for the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway, Port Essington returned to being a fishing community.
Charles Hays had many grand ideas for Prince Rupert including berthing facilities for large passenger ships and the development of a major tourism industry. These plans fell through when Charles Hays perished April 15, 1912 on the RMS Titanic. Mount Hays, the larger of two mountains on Kaien Island, is named in his honour, as is a local high school, Charles Hays Secondary School.
Local politicians used the promise of a highway connected to the mainland as an incentive and the city grew over the next several decades. American troops finally completed the 100 mile stretch of road between Prince Rupert and Terrace during World War II to facilitate the movement of thousands of allied troops to the Aleutian Islands and the Pacific. Several forts were built to Protect the city at Barrett Point and Fredrick Point. Following World War II, the fishing industry, particularly salmon and halibut, and forestry became the city's major industries. Prince Rupert was the Halibut Capital of the World until the early 1980s. A long-standing dispute over fishing rights in the Dixon Entrance to the Hecate Strait (pronounced as "hekk-et") between American and Canadian fisherman led to the formation of the 54-40 or Fight Society. The United States Coast Guard maintains a base in nearby Ketchikan, Alaska.
In 1946, the Government of Canada, through an Order-in-Council, granted the Joint Chiefs of Staff the power to administer and maintain facilities to collect data in support of Communications Research. The Royal Canadian Navy were allotted forty positions, seven of which were located in Prince Rupert. In either 1948 or 1949, Prince Rupert ceased operations and the positions were relocated to RCAF Whitehorse, Yukon.
Prince Rupert endured in Summer 1958 a riot over racial discrimination. Ongoing discontent with heavy-handed police practices towards natives escalated to rioting during a Port Days celebration following the arrest of an aboriginal couple. As many as 1,000 people (one tenth of the city's population at the time) began smashing windows and skirmishing with police. The Riot Act was read for only the second time since Confederation.
Over the years, hundreds of students were said to have largely paid their way through school by working in the then lucrative fishing industry. Construction of a pulp mill began in 1947 and was operating by 1951. The construction of coal and grain shipping terminals followed. The 1960s, 1970s and 1980s saw the construction of many amenities including a civic centre, swimming pool, public library, golf course and performing arts centre (recently renamed "The Lester Centre of the Arts"). Prince Rupert had much to offer as it transitioned from a fishing and mill town to a small city.
In the 1990s, both the fishing and forest industries experienced a significant downturn in economic activity. In July, 1997, Canadian fishermen blockaded the Alaska Marine Highway ferry M/V Malaspina, keeping it in the port as a protest in the salmon fishing rights dispute between Alaska and British Columbia. The forest industry declined when the softwood lumber dispute arose between Canada and the U.S. After the pulp mill closed down, many people were unemployed, and a significant amount of top-of-the-line machinery was left dormant. After reaching a peak of about 18,000 in the early 1990s, Prince Rupert's population began to decline as people left in search of work.
The period from 1996 to 2004 saw difficult times for Prince Rupert, including closure of the pulp mill, the burning down of a fish plant and a significant population decline. 2005 may be viewed as a critical turning point though. The announcement of the construction of a container port in April 2005, combined with new ownership of the pulp mill, the 2004 opening of a new cruise ship dock, the resurgence of coal and grain shipping, and the prospects of increased heavy industry and tourism possibly foretell a bright future for the area.
Prince Rupert was ranked 193rd out of the 200 Canadian cities in MoneySense Magazine's Best Places 2013, the lowest rank of any city in British Columbia