We’ve Been Here A Long Time

Coquitlam’s Black Community Members

Coquitlam is a city with a very diverse population. People have come here from other parts of Canada, and from all over the world for one reason or another, and have made their homes here. This exhibit will take a look at our local Black population through the lenses of politics, family ties, and their contributions to our community.

The 2016 Canadian Census data for Coquitlam shows that just over 50% of the population that returned census data, identified as “Visible Minority” and 1.1%, a total of 1,515 people, identified as “Black.” Coquitlam Heritage has reached out to members of this latter group, to get to know the community, and to tell a little bit about them.

We hope you will enjoy meeting some of your neighbours through their stories, recipes, and pictures.

(To read more at any point, click on the + symbol.)


Though no map is available for Coquitlam specifically, this 2016 Statistics Canada map shows the distribution of immigrants living in Vancouver by region of birth.

Trails to Canada

Some of the earliest Black arrivals to British Columbia came in 1858, invited by Governor Douglas at the time of the Fraser River gold rush. Promised improved rights, more opportunities, and a chance to become citizens, their presence was one way that Douglas avoided being overrun by Americans, who came by the thousands seeking gold.

You can learn more about this history through our exhibit “We’ve Been Here All Along.”

Descendants of these pioneers still live in the Lower Mainland. They have been joined by Black people from across the globe. Some came in search of work, some arrived as refugees, and others came to attend universities. Some arrived in BC from established Black communities in other parts of Canada, such as Africville in Nova Scotia. Over the years, political forces and public sentiment both played a role in the timing of their arrivals. Coquitlam’s Black community reflects many of these things.

Although many Black Canadians live in integrated communities, there have been, and still are, many notable Black communities. Some were unique settlements and some neighbourhoods in urban centres with predominately a Black population.

Meet Your Neighbours

Thank you to Tri-Cities Community TV.

Community Members Spotlights

Mel Warner


Mel Warner was born in the Caribbean Islands of St. Kitts & Nevis. His father was a lawyer who completed his education in England, after which the family moved from the Caribbean to Alberta in 1964. During Mel’s Grade 10 year, they moved again to Vancouver, where Mel completed high school. He then attended Langara College and UBC where he studied engineering. Mel worked for the Grain Commission, first as a chemical assistant, then as a chemical engineer, a position he held for 28 years.

He first moved to Coquitlam in the early 1980s and was one of the first people to build a house in the Dawes Hill, Monashee Court area. This was followed by three more houses in Coquitlam. He remembers when City Hall was across from Mackin House. His then wife, who now lives in St. Kitts, was a nurse and a director at Riverview Hospital. His son, Jason, attended Our Lady of Lourdes and Centennial.

While studying at Langara College, Mel became heavily involved in music. He started out organizing dance parties as part of the Student Council, and his interest deepened when he worked as a busboy at Vancouver’s Oilcan Harry’s and the Cave Night Club, while financing his education. There, he learned about booking and promotions, and this led to his second career as a concert promoter.

Mel called his company Caribbean Productions, booking acts for places like the Devonshire Hotel and the Commodore ballroom. He brought in Caribbean artists to fill gaps in the music scene. Prior to Mel’s efforts, people in British Columbia had very limited opportunities to hear Latin, Caribbean, African, and R&B music. His concerts were well-attended, and his company grew to become Meloproductions. All of this did not happen without a struggle. Mel worked after his day job as an engineer to bring his dreams to life, but in the meantime, battled against prejudiced attitudes towards both himself and Black entertainment in the early years. To ensure his success at the time, he even felt it necessary to hire white people in order to ensure his success.

But succeed he did. Mel was inducted into the BC Entertainment Hall of Fame in 2019, just as the COVID pandemic brought the entertainment industry to a standstill. He also finds time to volunteer to do his own radio show at Vancouver Co-op Radio (CFRO 100.5 FM), “Caribbean Sounds,” on Saturday evenings.

When he has spare time, Mel enjoys watching cricket at Mackin Park, coaches soccer and track and field, and plays soccer. He has been a marathon runner in the past, and has been and continues to be, an avid reader.

 You can learn more about Mel in this oral history interview.

 Melo Productions

 BC Entertainment Hall of Fame – Mel Warner

Mel Warner: Hobbies & Achievements

Mel Warner: Family & Tradition

Trish Mandewo


Trish Mandewo is one of our Coquitlam City Councillors. Her ancestral roots are from the Shona tribe of Zimbabwe, specifically Chivhu reserves. Her totem is Shava Mhizha / Mhofu, denoting to her people’s spirit animal, the magnificent, elegant, and strong Eland Antelope. She is a first-generation settler and is humbled and grateful to live and work here in the traditional, ancestral, and unceded territories of the Kwikwetlem Nations. Trish left Zimbabwe just after high school and settled in Oklahoma where she completed university and started her career and family. Trish and her husband Alexander, and daughter Alexandra, moved to Coquitlam in 2009 after a fun and exploratory drive across Canada.

Trish studied embryology and clinical microbiology, and like many people who immigrate to Canada, speaks numerous languages and has a wealth of stories from her past. She comes from humble beginnings but growing up poor is not how she defines her life in Zimbabwe. She remembers a happy, simple, and family centered childhood. Though there was considerable political turmoil in Zimbabwe while Trish was growing up, she and her family survived and had a positive outlook on life. In coming to Coquitlam, Trish found a sense of community that she fell in love with. The sense of community was something that she yearned for and was lacking in the states where she studied and lived for many years. After many years in the medical field, she left to pursue entrepreneurship after her daughter was born. As an avid volunteer, Trish has been contributing in a very real way to her Coquitlam community since the first year she moved here.

She is a multi-award winning entrepreneur, board professional, politician, mentor, speaker, and author. She was elected to the Coquitlam City Council in 2018. She is the President & CEO of Synergy Executive & Boards Consulting Group. She also co-founded the Women’s Collaborative Hub Society. Her commitment to Coquitlam can be seen by the long list of boards she serves on. This is a very short version of her many accomplishments.

 To learn more, listen to Trish’s oral history interview here.

Candace Knoll

“Slumber not in the tents of your fathers. The world is advancing. Advance with it.”

Giuseppe Mazzini

This quote is one that Candace Knoll learned from a grade three teacher that gave her the strap. Her actions have shown that she has taken it to heart, learning about her ancestors and their struggles, and striving to move forward herself.

Candace Knoll was born in 1961 into a large family in St. Boniface, Manitoba, a suburb of Winnipeg. Raised by a single mother working several jobs to make ends meet, Candace is the third youngest of nine.

Her family moved around a lot as a kid, and she had attended eight different schools by the age of 16. Her mother’s family went from Saskatchewan to Winnipeg, and her father’s family are from Ontario. Both sides of her family have long interesting roots in parts of Canada and the United States. While Candace’s mother is first generation Canadian (whose family came from the southern United States), Candace is fifth generation Canadian through her father’s family who are descended from Chief Joseph Brant through his youngest daughter, Elizabeth. Candace’s paternal grandfather, Gordon Brown, was injured in WWI and was never compensated. His parents were Agnes Morey and Andrew Brown. Agnes Morey was the daughter of former slave, John Morey and Elizabeth Brant.

To take some of the pressure off her mother, Candace got her first job when she was in Grade 6, at Haynes Chicken Shack in Winnipeg, a company that employed several of her siblings at one point or another. She remembers the generosity of her mother and the sense of community she had growing up. Even when the family had very little, her mother would open the door to their home to share what they had with people in need. This sense of the importance of community has stuck with Candace and continues to play a significant role in her life now.

The family’s history has more than its share of tragedies and triumphs. Candace’s grandmother’s nephew, Jesse Washington was a victim of lynching in Waco, Texas in 1916 when he was just seventeen years old. Candace’s sister was murdered in New Westminster, and Candace herself has experienced racism throughout her life. In contrast to these things, are the successes. Her mother persevered through hard work and determination to raise her children to stand up for themselves. Before this, her mother’s relative Blanche Kelso Bruce (aka B.K. Bruce) went from being born a slave in 1841, to being the first African-American to serve a full term in the United States senate. Candace’s maternal uncles were also very influential in the struggle for equal treatment and rights of the Black railway sleeping car porters.

Candace herself has carried on this strong tradition. As a teenager she was named “Miss Ebony” in Winnipeg, and as an adult she was very active with the Toastmistress Organization (now called International Training in Communication or ITC), winning numerous local and national awards as well as 3rd place in the International ITC Power Talk Competition for her speech titled “MAMA’s Theory.” “MAMA” is her acronym for Music, Affirmation, Meditation and Affirmations, all of which lead to success. She also won second places in the ITC international competition. She has put the skills learned through Toastmistresses to good use in organizing one of the family’s bi-annual reunions in Vancouver in 1987, attended by 360 people, and for the last ten years (pre-COVID) had coached Miss BC pageant contestants.

Candace has worked for Telus for over 25 years, is a Union Steward for the United Steelworkers local 1944, also serving on the Union’s local Civil and Human Rights Committee and the USW National Anti-Racism Working Group. This is her second time serving on the Local’s bargaining committee to negotiate the terms of the working conditions for the Telus Unionized Employees Collective Agreement. Candace is a past executive board member with the New Westminster and District Labour Council (NWDLC), and is still active on the Political Action Committee. This year, Candace coordinated the National Congress of Black Women Foundation, partnering with the NWDLC and VDLC (Vancouver District Labour Council) to present two sessions with four educators for Black History Month. She is a member of the Anti-racism coalition of Vancouver.

This is the short version. You can find out more about Candace and her family in this oral history interview.


Florence and Ernest Daddey

Florence Daddey was born in Ghana, the seventh child in a large family.  While Florence’s mother sought opportunities in the UK, Florence grew up with her aunts and uncles along with four other kids. After graduating high school, Florence joined her mother in England and passed her A-Levels before attending Nottingham Trent University. She then worked as a trainee accountant and in banking before earning a post-secondary teaching certificate. Despite having her own home and career opportunities in England, Florence moved to Burnaby in 2003 with her boyfriend.  

The move was a significant change for Florence, but she was prepared by her experiences in England and knew her worth; she had faced significant racism in England but took initiative in Canada and did not let doors close on her. For example, as an educator, Florence has to regularly contend with her students’ ignorance and prove to them that they can rely on her; in addition to teaching, she has to set an example. She worked with the Open Learning Agency in Burnaby and, when the organization merged with University College of the Cariboo, she moved to Kamloops to work for Thompson Rivers University whilst her husband was commuting to the United States for work. Florence moved back to Coquitlam when her daughter arrived, and eventually accepted a job with the Justice Institute of BC, where she worked for ten years before moving to Douglas College. 

Currently, Florence teaches business management at Douglas College and is passionate about advocating for the use of open education resources which is creating free, or zero cost teaching and learning materials to reduce the educational costs for students. Her daughter plays soccer and field hockey in the Tricities and has performed in plays at Evergreen Centre. Florence is also a devout Christian and attends North Side Church. She takes Christmas and Easter particularly seriously, not just for the gift-giving and celebration, but for the deep religious significance of the holidays. She is also active in the West African and Ghanaian communities in Vancouver, having sought them out after first moving to Burnaby.  Florence believes in engaging with your community and participates in events and activities that seek to make a positive contribution in the community.

Florence Daddey oral history coming soon.

Ernest Daddey was born and raised in Ghana before moving to the U.K. for university where his parents were both nurses. He has two brothers and sisters who live near London. Ernest attended Greenwich University, London, where he studied to become a materials scientist/engineer, and graduated with honours. Following several years of professional studies, Ernest worked with multinationals and regional companies in the materials science field for over ten years while living in London, the Alsace region of France, and Cambridge, England. He met Florence in the U.K. in 2000. Florence suggested that they come to Canada since the application was only $995, and since Ernest had already made some connections with a Canadian company two years earlier.  

The initial offer to move came in 2002 as Ernest was a trained engineer and had experience in several industries. His first job offer came in May 2002 and he began working at Creo, Inc., Burnaby, in July 2002 as a Materials Chemist. He enjoyed his first job, as the work culture was positive and social and the team he was working on was very multicultural and multi-disciplinary. After three years, Ernest then moved on to working at  technology startups through his consulting entity, EOK Consulting Inc., working with clients from both Canada and internationally.  He has worked with several other large, successful engineering and consulting firms, including a stint as Executive Director of an entrepreneurial incubator in Prince George under the government of BC strategies to focus on innovation to commercialization.   

This work culture and experience was in line with his African upbringing, with its push towards higher professions and skills. In Canada, Ernest saw that trades were more valuable; this was good as he is good at tinkering. Ernest was also an accomplished networker and developed a significant social circle in Canada. Within three years of arriving, he had become President of the Ghana Canada Association of BC, was involved in several other large African groups, and mentored through S.U.C.C.E.S.S.  

Ernest has found much success in Canada, running and starting several successful companies, filing patents, and becoming a well-respected businessman and engineer. He has earned many professional recognitions and is very well-respected in the professional management and technology fields.

Tara Self (nee Perry)

Tara Self, nee Perry, grew up near Riverview Hospital when it was still a mostly rural area. She attended Meadowbrook School, then Parkland and completed high school at Centennial. She completed her post-secondary education at Simon Fraser University. Tara currently lives in the Ranch Park area with her husband and twin daughters. Both Tara and her brother, Jason, were coached by her father, Percy. Jason played high school football, and Tara pursued track and field. She competed in 100 meter and 200 meter sprints, and her career as a sprinter lasted for over 15 years. As her career progressed, Tara was coached by Coquitlam’s Mike Murray, then later, while training in San Diego, she was coached by Rahn Sheffield. She has competed at every major championship with some significant successes. At the 1999 World Championships she placed 6th, placed 4th at the World University Games (1997), and has also added Canada Games Champion (1993), Canadian National Junior Champion (1993), and Canadian National Senior Champion (1996), to her list of accomplishments. Tara has also been a member of Canada’s Olympic Team twice, in 1996 and 2000. Tara is also featured at the Coquitlam Sports Hall of Fame.

Tara has taken her experience and applied it back to her community, coaching numerous young athletes to national and provincial championships. She is also following in her father’s footsteps and has been the head coach for the Coquitlam Cheetahs since 2004. Tara’s husband Paul, is also a Cheetahs coach, and the couple’s children have started playing for the Cheetahs. The Perry legacy continues.

Photo credit: Courtesy of The Coquitlam Sports Hall of Family


The Ryan Family

The Ryan Family came to Canada in the 1960s. Alex Ryan left St. Kitt’s for England, as a young man, then moved on to do his undergraduate degree in the United States. In 1965, he began working for the Ministry of Social Services in Prince Rupert as a Social Worker. At that time, in Prince Rupert, there were many single men who worked and lived in hostels. Part of his position was to work with the hostel to understand who these men were and what their needs were, while in the city. Eventually, he travelled home to St. Kitts where he married Mary Christmas, and the two came to Canada. After living for some time in New Westminster, they purchased a home in Coquitlam in 1971. They raised three children, Larry and Willem, and adopted their niece, Varetta.

Alex worked at Riverview Hospital as a social worker in the East Lawn’s Women’s Sector, and after retirement became an ordained minister in the Church of God, in Richmond.

Larry went to school at Rochester Elementary, followed by Montgomery Middle School, then Centennial High School. He received an undergraduate degree from Simon Fraser University in psychology, which he later followed up with a Master’s degree from Trinity College. He works as a vice principal in Coquitlam.

His brother, Willem, was a sprinter who was coached by Percy Perry.

Watch Alex Ryan’s oral history here.




1984, CA CCOQ F19, Tri City News, City of Coquitlam Archives

Coquitlam Now (May 1 1984 pg 10)

The Clarke Family

The Clarke family came from Jamaica to settle in Coquitlam, via England and northern Saskatchewan. Neville and Vashti Clarke boarded with a Maillardville family, Sue and Orel Remillard and their five children, until they were able to purchase the house next door. Sue Remillard recalls Vashti stepping outside in a cotton dress on a cold winter day, hoping to warm up in the sun. Neville’s brothers, Claude and his wife and two boys, and George and his wife Veronica, also came to Coquitlam; Claude and George via England and Neville directly from Jamaica. Neville and Vashti’s daughter, Wilma, in a conversation at Mackin House, recalls her dad and uncles going up to the Coquitlam Legion. Her grandfather, Ralph Clarke, was in the RAF and would have worn a uniform similar to the one shown here.

This Airforce uniform, and the great coat with the Barbados insignia, belonged to Eustace W. Heath, Coquitlam. He was born in Barbados, and was working in Trinidad when he volunteered with the RAF. He did Air Corp Officer training in Moncton, New Brunswick, #1 Learning Pool, and was a 2nd grade pilot in the Airforce. He later completed elementary and senior flying training. He did not see active combat, but instead served as a training officer for glider pilots.

The Caribbean Air Crew website lists him as follows: 605749 – E.W. Heath – Trinidad – attested 1.12.43 – Sgt. Pilot #217 SFTSLocal research failed to turn up any current information about Mr. Heath. 


The Trotman Family

Phebe Trotman was born in New Westminster and grew up in Coquitlam, near Como Lake, and attended Austin Heights Elementary (Montessori) and Alderson Elementary (French Immersion) before going to Rochester until Grade 5 (Montessori), then Parkland for Grade 6 & 7 (French Immersion). She attended Como Lake Jr High and then Centennial High School, followed by SFU. Both of Phebe’s parents were born in Barbados, specifically the towns of St. Michael and Christ Church, and moved to the United States under student visas.

Phebe had tremendous success as an athlete and holds numerous athletic awards. She has won national championships at youth, adult, varsity, and professional clubs. Following her older brother, TeRoi, whom she had watched playing, Phebe began playing soccer with Coquitlam’s Bel-Aire club in 1984. Phebe then played for Coquitlam United/City Soccer, and then Burnaby Girls Blast with whom she won the 1997 U-19 Coastal, Provincial, and National Championships. At the varsity level, Trotman played four years (1997-2001) with Simon Fraser University, winning the NAIA national championship in 2000, scoring the winning goal in the 163rd minute of the final match, in the fifth period of extra time. In BC’s adult club soccer, Trotman played with Burnaby Canadians in the Metro Women’s Premier division from 1997 to 2001, winning an adult national club championship in 2001. Both of Trotman’s Burnaby national champion teams are members of the Burnaby Sports Hall of Fame. Phebe then played for Coquitlam City/Metro-Ford Premier Division teams from 2001 to 2015 and more recently the club’s Classics team, with whom she won two more Canada Soccer championships in 2015 and 2018. Phebe also played soccer in the PCSL’s summer season with Vancouver Explorers and Tri-Cities Xtreme. Phebe also played with professional clubs, Fort Collins Force, in 2001, and the Vancouver Whitecaps from 2002 to 2007, winning the W-League championship in 2004, (the team being inducted into the BC Sports Hall of Fame). Phebe has been Head Coach of Coquitlam Metro-Ford’s Initiation Program since 2009 and a BC Soccer Learning Facilitator since 2016. Phebe Trotman’s honours and recognitions include selection as NAIA Women’s Soccer Played of the Year in 2000 and, twice, college First Team All-American, SFU Female Athlete of the Year in 2001, W-League Player of the Year in 2003, and selection as their Championship finals MVP by the NAIA in 2000 and the PCSL in 2007. In 2000, Phebe Trotman was selected by BC Soccer as British Columbia’s Adult Player of the Year.

Joyce Trotman (nee Springer) was born in Barbados, West Indies. Joyce attended different denominational churches there at times, but the family’s choice of church was Chapman Street Church of God (Reformation Church of God), where she was very much involved in youth activities and Sunday School. Joyce recalls being taken to that church when she was four years old by her great grandmother. When she was fourteen years old, she began assisting at Sunday School with the toddler’s class, and also taught other classes. She was asked to be the Christian Education Director for her Church at a very young age. Joyce felt led to further her studies and attended West Indies Theological College (WITC) in Trinidad for formal Christian Education studies. While there, she met Mary Ryan nee Christmas, who had come from the island of St. Kitts to also study Christian education. Mary later got married to Alex Ryan who was also from St. Kitts. While Mary studied in Trinidad, Alex was in Oregon where he had studied at Warner Pacific University. WITC was the Church of God college for Caribbean youth who wanted/felt led to become ministers or Christian Education directors. (You can learn more about this in Alex Ryan’s oral history interview.)

In 1970, Joyce and Henderson Trotman got married and moved to Portland, Oregon to study. They both attended Warner Pacific University, where Joyce was allowed to transfer some credits from WITC. She received a Bachelor of Science degree with a major in Social Work, and minors in psychology, sociology, and anthropology. Henderson graduated from Warner with bachelor’s degrees in social work and theology. He then attended Portland State University where he completed a master’s degree in social work and family counselling. After completing their studies, Henderson and Joyce moved to Canada, as they had Permanent Resident status. It was a natural transition, as they often spent the Christmas seasons and summers in BC, enjoying the company of friends who were also from the Caribbean and who also attended the Reformation Church of God in their countries. Friends who had never been to Canada, but had always wanted to visit, offered to help with the driving. Joyce and Henderson set up a home in Maillardville for a short time, in an apartment that Alex Ryan had secured for them. As Joyce says, they had “three degrees, one child, one car, and no money, and of course, the Lord.” What they also had was a community of friends who also came from the Caribbean, and who has continued to be active in the Church of God. The family is still in touch with many of these people who are like family. The Trotman family also lived for a time in Burnaby, before finally settling in Coquitlam again.

Joyce worked her own business through a company called Jafra Cosmetics, even when in Portland, as it allowed her to control her time. She continued that business for many years. When their children, Phebe and TeRoi, were old enough to go to school, Joyce began working through a temp agency, going from place to place doing part-time secretarial work. One of the companies where she was sent repeatedly was Vancouver City Savings Credit Union as it was one of the few companies which had a magnetic selective typewriter. As there was a shortage of people who knew how to use that typewriter, they eventually asked her to become staff. Joyce also worked as a lifestyle counselor and at Arcus Community Services.

Next, she worked at Maples Adolescent Treatment Center in Burnaby, putting her degree to good use, first as a psychiatric social worker filling in for someone away on sabbatical. When that year ended, she worked as a childcare counselor. In her last years of work, she worked as a social worker through Community Living B.C. While in the United states and in Canada, the family were aware of racism, but Joyce says it never affected them directly.

The Trotman family still sticks to important traditions and celebrations that keep them connected to Barbados. One of those traditions is celebrating Barbados Independence Day on November 30th, and cooking traditional Bajan dishes. Phebe’s favourites are flying fish, salt bread and oxtail, and Joyce describes a dish made from corn meal and okra, called cou cou. Cou cou, along with flying fish, is considered Barbados’ national dish. There are other kinds of cou cous such as split pea, breadfruit, green bananas, etc. For Caribbean cooking items, West Indians often travel around the lower mainland, to New Westminster, Surrey, or Vancouver. See our recipes section for a few Bajan recipes from one of Joyce’s cookbooks.

Learn more through Joyce’s oral history video here.


Windies Cricket Club

Mackin Park, in Maillardville, is home to the Windies Sports and Cultural Association, who have been calling the park their home cricket field for over forty years.

The first cricketers in Coquitlam played at Glen Park, near the Coquitlam Shopping Center, then moved to Miller Park and finally to Mackin Park at a time when no other sports were being played there. The Association has received exceptional support from the City of Coquitlam.

The Windies Cricket team was created when two teams merged into one. One team, Westcan Cricket Club, was started in 1978 by Vibert Jack of Saint Vincents & Grenadines, and Neville Pemberton, from St. Kitts & Nevis and others. They initially played on a field near Pine Tree. Their rival club was a group of West Indians, mostly from the Surrey area, called the ‘Carib Cricket Club.” The two clubs competed against each other to see which was the best cricket club in the league and determined that they were both good. They decided to form a club with a social club-like atmosphere, that they hope would be the best team in the British Columbia Mainland Cricket Leage (BCMCL) and merged to form the Windies Cricket Club in 1997,  under the society name Windies Sports and Cultural Association.

The Windies, pre-COVID, met regularly at Mackin Park, and hope to resume when things return to normal.  The club offers senior men’s cricket for ages 18 to 70, and junior boys’ and girls’ cricket for ages 6 – 18. The Super Strikers are their junior team. They also enjoy social events, such as celebrations of various West Indian Islands’ Independence Days.  The club is supported by various fund-raisers.


All Nations Church of God in Christ


This small church, located at 220 Allard St., in Maillardville, was founded in the early 1970’s by James Blackwell who was then a part of the U.S Denomination, Church of God in Christ (COGIC), Memphis TN. He was a Black man, and the church was popular among the residents of Maillardville, as recalled by Wilma Clarke. The church is still in operation and Coquitlam Heritage is working to install a commemorative plaque on the building.