The Quarantine Station at William Head was once the mandatory first port of call for every ship arriving on the coast.

Metchosin Then and Now: Quarantine Wharf

William Head Quarantine Station a crucial piece of area’s history

Only a select few may now walk over William Head. One must either be a “guest” of Her Majesty and the Government of Canada, or an employee, for it is now a medium security penitentiary.

This is not a far cry from the peninsula’s early history, when as a Quarantine Station it was a mandatory first port of call for every ship arriving on the West Coast. Ships and passengers were required to pass the medical officer’s inspection for infectious diseases, mainly smallpox. If illness was found, the ship was tied to the long wharves and everybody and everything was fumigated and detained until cleared of infection.

Over the 87 years of its operation, many people were employed and lived on the site. Whole families grew up and went to school at the station, many of whom still reside locally and they have shared their stories with Peter Johnson, historian and author.

The story of the Station is told brilliantly in his book “Quarantined; Life and Death at William Head Station, 1872-1959.” It is an engrossing read, shining a light on medical history and immigration to Canada.

How else would we know about the Smallpox Wars between Vancouver and Victoria city councils, or the bureaucratic disinterest of Ottawa? The book is available at local book stores and at the Metchosin Museum Schoolhouse on Happy Valley Road.

Wendy Mitchell is president of the Metchosin Museum Society. She can be reached at

Just Posted

‘More animals could have a chance:’ Victoria Humane Society in desperate need of a home

Animal rescue currently has 163 animals in foster and volunteer homes

Free-B Film Festival celebrates 20th anniversary

Head to Victoria’s Beacon Hill Park to see some family favourites on the big screen

Central Saanich accused of not following Climate Emergency declaration with urgent action

Motion to research climate response options and costs rejected then rescheduled in tense meeting

Join North Saanich invasives removal and experience three key benefits

Friends of North Saanich Parks says July 27 clear-up will be rewarding as well as green

Colwood field lacrosse camp aims to get more kids involved

Victoria Field Youth Lacrosse hopes to inspire future athletes

Rich the Vegan scoots across Canada for the animals

Rich Adams is riding his push scooter across Canada to bring awareness to the dog meat trade in Asia

Vancouver Island teens missing after vehicle found ablaze near Dease Lake, BC

RCMP say a body discovered nearby not one of the missing teens

A year later, ceremony commemorates victims of the Danforth shooting

It’s the one-year anniversary of when a man opened fire along the bustling street before shooting and killing himself

Japanese Canadians call on B.C. to go beyond mere apology for historic racism

The federal government apologized in 1988 for its racism against ‘enemy aliens’

B.C. VIEWS: NDP pushes ahead with Crown forest redistribution

This isn’t the time for a radical Indigenous rights agenda

Two dead in two-vehicle crash between Revelstoke and Golden

RCMP are investigating the cause of the crash

Ottawa fights planned class action against RCMP for bullying, intimidation

The current case is more general, applying to employees, including men, who worked for the RCMP

Alberta judge denies B.C.’s bid to block ‘Turn Off the Taps’ bill

He said the proper venue for the disagreement is Federal Court

Most Read