The Last Leper on Bentinck Island

Years ago, I was on a BC Ferry with my mother – coming back from Vancouver Island.  We were out on the deck looking out at the islands in Active Pass when she said:

“Where’s that island of lepers your father used to visit?”

I never heard of this before.  I asked my father the next time I saw him and he said that yes, he had gone once to an island with lepers.  Bentinck Island.  There was only one man left there.   My father had a dental practice in Victoria but sometimes travelled to remoter areas to do dentistry.    Someone from the Victoria public health department had called him up and said they were looking for someone to go to the island as a leper had a painful abscess in his tooth.  My father agreed to go and, I guess, fixed the man’s tooth. I asked him what the condition the leper was in and he did tell me but I have forgotten.  I know he would have found the man’s solitary life very depressing. 

 After my father died, I mentioned this excusion to my aunt.   She confirmed that it happened and thought it very brave of my father.  “I’m sure he didn’t tell our mother.”  she said.

A local filmmaker made a documentary about the leper colony once and R. ran into the editor of the film – whom  he had worked with before.  When R. heard about the film, he said,  “My friend Sally’s father went to that island and did dental work for one of the lepers.”    The editor scoffed and said no one had gone to the island – it was quarantined.   Too bad my dad had passed away, as he would have loved to be interviewed for a film.

There must be a record in the Victoria Public Health department of how the people with leprosy were monitored.   I don’t think they were just abandoned there.


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