The Olson Family
of Gimli

Gottskálk Sigfússon &
Hólmfríður Jónatansdóttir

Páll (Paul) Kristinn Olson & Margrét Jónsdóttir Gíslason

Paul and Margaret Olson
page 1 | page 2

Paul and Margret


home | back to NIHM website
The Book Of Life
Alphabetical Story Index
Taken from the Icelandic Appeal website, circa 2000.
The Olson Family of Gimli

Paul and Margaret Olson

Paul Olson was born on August 3, 1918 in Gimli, the son of Páll (Paul) and Margrét (Gíslason) Olson. During his long and eventful career as a commercial fisherman on Lake Winnipeg, Paul navigated the lake from one end to the other.

Paul’s involvement with the fishery began at the age of ten when he would accompany his father onto on the lake when he was not in school. Paul didn’t do much on these first trips, but did gain valuable experience in the profession that would play such a central role in his working life. In 1934, at the age of fourteen, Paul got a job as a deckhand and wheelsman on the freight boat ‘Goldfield’, working for the Stevens family. He had some thoughts of continuing on to get his captains’ papers until appendicitis forced him to quit. After his recovery he opted not to go back to the freight boats, but rather join his father in the fishing camps. By the age of 18, Paul had his own boat and his own equipment.

In 1941, Paul joined the Royal Canadian Air Force as an aircraft mechanic. The experience he gained by working on fishing boats gave him a start in this line of work and the Air Force expanded his knowledge through a mechanical engineering program. He was stationed in Yorkshire, England until after the war. On his return from England he resumed commercial fishing.

Over the course of his career, Paul took a leading role in improving benefits and working conditions for fishermen. In 1951, a Royal Commission was set up to examine the fishery and Paul served as a representative from Lake Winnipeg. Discussions were held in communities around the lake and the general consensus was that some form of assistance was needed for fishermen between fishing seasons.


Paul and the other representatives from freshwater fisheries were in favour of the establishment of an unemployment insurance system similar to that which was being experimented with in Newfoundland. Without the UI system, fisherman were in the uncomfortable position of having to borrow money from the fish companies in the event of a poor season. Many fishermen could not secure loans from the bank because fishing equipment was not accepted as collateral. Eventually, the freshwater fishermen succeeded in swaying government and the UI system was adopted from coast to coast in 1954-55.

Paul also served as the first president of the Manitoba Fishermen’s Federation in 1956-57. It was during this period that change was in the air for the fishery. This change would eventually result in the formation of the Freshwater Fish Marketing Board in 1968.

While the Lake was closed due to the Mercury poisoning scare in 1969-70, Paul worked for the Department of Indian Affairs. He was sent to God’s Lake to run a fishing co-operative, and the following summer he was at South Indian Lake. Paul considers these two years an important educational experience.

In 1951, Paul married Margaret Roberta Paterson (b. July 28, 1926), a teacher originally for Portage la Prairie. Paul and Margaret worked as a team for many years. In the early years of their marriage Margaret accompanied Paul north to the fishing camps where she did bookkeeping cooking and a myriad of other tasks important to the operation of the camp. When the children were born she felt that it was too much to be caring for young children at a fishing camp and subsequently ceased going north.