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Island of Shadows

Country Available: Canada, USA

Throughout history, there are tragic stories. Island of Shadows presents one such tragedy, rooted in racism, fueled by panic over a feared disease and prolonged by the squabbling of politicians. This is the story of the D'Arcy Island Leper Colony: 1891-1924.

During these years, D'Arcy Island was the desolate home for handful of men and one woman who were left there to die. A row of shacks made of unplastered, thin unpainted wood provided meager shelter for the outcasts of society.

There were never more than nine men on the island, and at times a single man was left alone for up to fifteen months. Though Leprosy (Hansens Disease) is crippling in its later stages no one was left to care for the afflicted. Their only contact with the outside world was a supply ship that came every three months to drop off food, clothing, opium and coffins. Medical and Sanitary officers on these supply ships reported that conditions were deplorable, yet for years nothing was done. Why? They had leprosy, they were Chinese and no government would take responsibility.

Island of Shadows is a forty-eight minute documentary that tells the story of D'Arcy Island from its inception until its demise. The production examines the factors contributing to its creation and the inhuman treatment of the Chinese that were banished there.

Using vivid dramatizations and archival photo's taken on D'Arcy Island in the 1890's, Island of Shadows takes the viewer on a journey to the island at the turn of the century to show how these men lived, and the pain and suffering they endured.

"It is, of course, unfair to saddle the cities with the cost of the support of these Chinese lepers. They cannot be considered citizens of British Columbia in any sense of the term. If British Columbia had it's way, there would be no Chinese in the province. As the Dominion Government admits them into the country it is only fair that the Dominion Government should take upon itself the care of those of them who are afflicted with such a loathsome and dangerous a disease as leprosy." --Victoria Colonist, Nov. 17, 1891

View a printer friendly version of this page...Copyright Date: 2000 Length: 48 minutes Library Audience:
  • Young Adult
  • Family
  • General Interest
  • School Audience:
  • Secondary (10-12)
  • Univ./College
  • Adult Ed.
  • Subjects: History and Current Events; Social Studies; Multicultural Studies Formats Available:
  • VHS Tape
  • DVD