Hippies, Yippies, the Counter-Culture, and the Gastown Riot in Vancouver, 1968-1971


  • Michael Boudreau St. Thomas University




Gastown, Hippies, Sixties, Counter-Culture, Youth


One of the more controversial protests that occurred in Vancouver during the “long Sixties” was the Gastown Smoke-In & Street Jamboree.  Organized by the Yippies, the smoke-in took place on 7 August 1971 in Gastown.  It was intended to be a public display of civil disobedience by Vancouver’s hippies, and disaffected youth, against Canada’s drug laws and a forum to denounce the police department’s crackdown on “soft” drugs.  But as a result of the efforts by the police to break-up the demonstration, this peaceful gathering became a riot, leaving several people hurt, dozens arrested, and thousands of dollars in property damage in its wake.  The Gastown riot further eroded the limited trust that many young residents of Vancouver had in their police force.  It also exposed the growing chasm between a segment of the city’s population, primarily the young, who challenged social injustices, and those who wished to preserve the existing social order. Similarly, Gastown, and the other protests that young people staged against the “growing power of Fascism” in Vancouver between 1968 and 1971, represent the continuation into the early 1970s of a key theme of the 1960s, namely a concerted attempt to bring about social change.