Cole Harris memorial

Tue, Oct 11, 2022 4:00 pm - 5:00 pm

Celebrating the Life of Richard Colebrook (Cole) Harris “Doco”

Richard Colebrook (Cole) Harris

1936 – 2022

Cole Harris, at home, September 26, 2022, aged 86. Cole understood that to live well was to contribute. His contributions were many-to the field of historical geography, to teaching and mentoring students, to understanding the country, to the University of British Columbia, to the Unitarian Church of Vancouver, to raising a family-and continue to influence and inspire. Born in Vancouver in 1936 to Dick and Ellen (née Code), Cole’s school years were interrupted for long stretches with rheumatic fever. At UBC as an undergraduate in Geography and History, he ran middle distances with the Varsity Track Team. A young graduate student at the University of Wisconsin, Cole immersed himself in the archives in Quebec City and Ottawa and surfaced with The Seigneurial System in Early Canada. In 1961, Cole’s sister, Susan, introduced her UBC choir friend, Muriel Watney, and two weeks at the Harris family’s cabin in the Slocan Valley led to a wonderful partnership over fifty-eight years of married life. Cole taught at the University of Toronto, then at UBC, where its Geography Department remained his much-loved academic home from 1971 until he retired in 2001. His scholarship, begun on early Quebec, turned to the country as a whole, and led to the award-winning Historical Atlas of Canada, Volume I. Driven by an insatiable curiosity to understand the place he called home, Cole then focused on The Resettlement of British Columbia, and, in Making Native Space, on processes of colonialism and dispossession, while encouraging others as co-editor of BC Studies. After retirement, Cole revisited his work on early Canada with The Reluctant Land, and collaborated with others to publish local histories of the Slocan Valley. His scholarly awards include Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, the Canadian Historical Association’s MacDonald Prize, the Royal Canadian Geographic Society’s Gold and Massey medals, and Officer of the Order of Canada. Cole will be remembered for spirited lectures, lively seminars, unconventional field trips, mealtime conversation, Shakespeare readings, enthusiastic singing, his support of creative activity, his rigour, and his kindness. He is survived by his wife, Muriel; children, Douglas (Candy), Colin (Janet), and Rachel (Éric); and eight grandchildren. Cole will be buried in New Denver, BC, close to his grandparents’ Bosun Ranch.

Donations suggested to the Slocan Valley Legacy Fund.

To send a message to the family, please connect through the Cole Harris page at


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