With an area of 947 800 km2, BC is Canada's third-largest province, after Québec and Ontario. The provincial population of 3 907 738 in 2001 is third in Canada, after Ontario and Québec. The intense "Britishness" of earlier times is referred to in the province's name, which originated with Queen Victoria and was officially proclaimed in 1858. The province is closely tied to the American Pacific Northwest, with which it shares locational continuity.
The vast interior is dominated by parallel mountain ranges and population is strung north-south along valleys, notably the Okanagan and the Kootenay. Nodes of population are dispersed, as at Kamloops and Prince George in the interior, Prince Rupert and Kitimat on the northern coast and Dawson Creek and Fort St John in the PEACE RIVER LOWLAND, each the centre of a separate subregion and each depending more on world markets than on local markets.
Much of the evolution of resource-based economic activity in the province has been concerned with linking together these separate regions into a broader provincial economy. The northern half of the province is virtually uninhabited north of Prince Rupert and is cut off from the Pacific by the Alaska Panhandle. The Peace River Lowland of the northeast is actually an extension of the Interior Plains and more closely resembles neighbouring Alberta than the rest of the province.
Landforms, Geology and Drainage
The Cordilleran mountain system of western North America covers most of British Columbia, except for the Peace River area of the northeast. The ROCKY MOUNTAINS rise abruptly about 1000-1500 m above the foothills of Alberta, and some of their snow- and ice-covered peaks tower more than 3000 m above sea level; the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies, MOUNT ROBSON, west of Jasper, Alta, is 3954 m.
In the southern Rockies, the sharp, jagged sedimentary rock peaks of mainly Palaeozoic geological age differ from the more rounded, lower peaks of Proterozoic age to the north. The Rocky Mountains terminate south of the LIARD RIVER in northeastern BC and do not extend into the Yukon or Alaska - contrary to some foreign maps and atlases.
The western boundary of the Rocky Mountains is the narrow ROCKY MOUNTAIN TRENCH - the longest valley in North America, extending for 1400 km along the length of BC from Montana to the Yukon. Out of the trench flow the headwaters of the Kootenay, COLUMBIA, FRASER, Parsnip, Finlay, Kechika and Liard rivers, each separated from the others by low drainage divides.
Two other mountain systems lie west of the Rocky Mountain Trench: the COLUMBIA MOUNTAINS to the south and the Cassiar-Omineca Mountains to the north. The Columbia Mountains (a collective name seldom used in BC) consist of 3 parallel, north-south ranges (Purcell, Selkirk, Monashee) which have sharp peaks of 2000-3000 m, separated by long, narrow valleys occupied by Kootenay Lake and the Columbia River. These mountains consist mainly of sedimentary and intrusive rocks of Cretaceous, Triassic and Jurassic ages, and they have been well mineralized. The fourth range of the group, the CARIBOO MOUNTAINS northwest of the THOMPSON RIVER, is composed of sedimentary rocks of Proterozoic age which appear to be less mineralized.
The broad, gently rolling uplands of the Interior Plateau cover central British Columbia. The region can be considered a basin because it is surrounded by higher mountains. Many of the rocks are lavas of Cretaceous and Tertiary geological ages with apparently little mineralization except around the plateau edges. The Fraser River has cut deeply into the bedrock in the southern part to form the spectacular FRASER RIVER CANYON. Northward the Stikine Plateau is another upland area of mainly Jurassic lava rocks, with some recent volcanoes, containing the headwaters of the Stikine River. Average altitudes of both the Interior and Stikine plateaus are about 1000 m above sea level.
The western section of the Cordillera consists of the COAST MOUNTAINS along the coast and the offshore Insular Mountains. The northern end of the Cascade Mountains of Washington State terminates at the Fraser River, and then the high, snow and ice-covered peaks of the Coast Mountains extend northward along the Alaskan Panhandle into the Yukon. These scenic mountains have peaks up to 3000 m in the southern part, with Mount Waddington, the highest peak entirely in BC, rising to 4016 m.
Numerous long, twisting, deep fjords penetrate into the mountain mass along the coast. The rocks are mostly granitic intrusions of Cretaceous and Tertiary ages and there are some recent volcanoes. The lower Coast Mountains (1500-2000 m) near the Skeena River are less of a barrier to the penetration of Pacific air masses, but they increase in altitude to the north.
The highest peak in BC, FAIRWEATHER MOUNTAIN (4663 m), straddles the Alaska border in the St Elias Mountains just northwest of the Coast Mountains. Only 3 major rivers, the Fraser, Skeena and Stikine, have cut through the barrier of the Coast Mountains; the first 2 of these valleys have become important topographic funnels for the only land-transportation routes reaching the coast from the interior.
The offshore Insular Mountains are the partially submerged northern continuation of the Olympic Mountains and Coast Ranges of Washington state. They provide the land mass for both Vancouver Island and HAIDA GWAII. The highest peak on Vancouver Island is the GOLDEN HINDE, at 2200 m.
All of British Columbia was under a thick sheet of ice during the ICE AGE. Some coastal areas, and perhaps interior valleys, became ice-free about 12 000-15 000 years ago, and coastal lowlands have been rising, relative to sea level, since that time. The remainder of the province became ice free 7000-13 000 years ago. The results of continental and alpine glaciation are seen everywhere in the province in fjords and cirques in the mountains, ground moraines across the Interior Plateau and terraces and benches along interior rivers.
Soils and Vegetation
It is estimated that 3% of British Columbia has soils suitable for agricultural production. As in most mountainous areas, only the narrow floodplains, terraces and deltas of the river valleys have alluvial soils on which crops can grow. Glacial deposition on the middle slopes of the mountains provides sufficient soil to support tree growth.
The coniferous trees of coastal British Columbia are the tallest, broadest trees in Canada. Douglas fir, western cedar, balsam fir, hemlock and Sitka spruce grow very well in the mild, wet climate and are the basis for the province's most valuable primary industry, FORESTRY. Similar trees, plus lodgepole and ponderosa pine and aspen, occupy the middle slopes of the interior mountains and plateaus. Depending on local conditions of slope and exposure, the upper treeline across southern BC is about 2000 m and declines to about 1000 m in the north. In contrast, grassland cover indicates the drier climate east of the Coast Mountains and in the lower valleys of the rivers across the southern third of the province.
There are wide variations in climatic conditions within small areas in British Columbia. The major climate contrast is between the coast and the interior, but there are also significant variations between valleys and uplands, and between the northern and southern parts of the province. Relatively warm air masses from the Pacific Ocean bring mild temperatures to the coast during the winters, while cold water keeps coastal temperatures cool in the summer. The barrier of the Coast Mountains hinders these moderating conditions from being carried inland. Average January mean temperatures are above 0° C at most coastal stations - the mildest in Canada - and July averages are about 15° C in the north and 18° C in the sheltered Georgia Strait region.
In contrast, the interior may be covered in winter by cold air masses pushing south from the Yukon or Alaska, particularly in the northern part of the province. Average daily mean January temperatures are -10° C to -15° C across the central interior and are a cold -20° C or more on the northeastern plains. The southern interior valleys may heat up during the summer, recording July average monthly temperatures of more than 20° C, but farther north stations at higher altitudes on the central Interior Plateau average about 15° C in midsummer.
The air masses which cross the Pacific bring ample rainfall to the coast, particularly in the autumn and winter. On the lee (eastern) side of the mountains, the interior valleys receive much less precipitation. The west-facing mountains of Vancouver Island receive more than 2500 mm of annual precipitation, whereas the east-coast lowland records only about 700 to 1000 mm. The western slopes of the Coast Mountains accumulate 1000 to 3000 mm annually, of which a high percentage is snowfall; but the OKANAGAN VALLEY receives a mere 250 mm of annual precipitation.
The frost-free season on the coast is the longest in Canada, averaging more than 200 days; in contrast, the central Interior Plateau is handicapped by a short frost-free season of only 75 to 100 days. In summary, the well-publicized mild, wet winters and cool, dry summers associated with British Columbia are characteristic only of the southwest; the rest of the province experiences temperature conditions similar to those on the plains of Alberta and Saskatchewan.
About 64% of British Columbia is forested, and as a result of excellent growth conditions for coniferous trees, the province has about 24% of the merchantable wood in Canada on 19.5% of the forested land.
The geology of most mountainous areas is favourable to mineralization, and BC is no exception. A wide range of metals has been discovered throughout the Cordilleran part of the province, including lead, zinc, gold, silver, molybdenum, copper and iron. The Peace River Lowland, northeast of the Rocky Mountains, has a different geological base consisting of younger, sedimentary rocks which have been the sources of petroleum, natural gas and coal.
The heavy precipitation, steep mountain slopes and large, interior drainage basins are ideal physical conditions for the production of hydroelectric power, and BC has the largest provincial potential for electric power generation, but some of the large interior rivers have not been harnessed because their use would damage the habitat of the PACIFIC SALMON, which spawn in the headwaters of coastal and interior rivers flowing into the Pacific. The physical environment of BC is itself a valuable resource, attracting visitors from throughout the world, as well as giving pleasure to local residents.
The balance between economic development and preservation of the environment is particularly troublesome in British Columbia, which relies heavily on renewable resources. Many of the resources seemed inexhaustible, but by the 1930s the coast forest was being rapidly depleted. The salmon fishery has been threatened by overfishing and by destruction of marine and river habitats in some places, and some of British Columbia's scarce agricultural land has been lost to roads, housing and industry. There are people who argue that such uses of the land are more productive (of income) than agriculture.
Early provincial governments were primarily concerned with rapid development to promote local employment but especially since WWII much legislation has been enacted to preserve the environment and natural resources. The success of the REFORESTATION program has been questioned and is interpreted differently by the forestry industry and by critics, but forestry is being managed by the principle of "sustained yield."
Fishing is confined to certain places and times, and hydroelectric developments have been delayed indefinitely to protect salmon runs. A freeze was placed on changing the use of agricultural land in 1973, and the British Columbia Ecological Reserves Act (1971) set aside numerous reserves of representative ecosystems.
The first permanent European settlement came with the development of the FUR TRADE in the early 19th century. A flurry of activity followed the discovery of gold on the lower and middle Fraser River (see FRASER RIVER GOLD RUSH), resulting in a system of supply and transportation inland along the Fraser River to the Cariboo Mountains. More permanent mining towns began to dot the valleys of the southeast area by the 1880s - each supported by local forestry, small farms and complex rail, road and water transport. In contrast, settlement was more urban and commercial on the southwest coast.
VICTORIA, the capital, was the main administrative and commercial settlement and the supply centre for interior and coastal resource development during the period 1860-90. After VANCOUVER, on Burrard Inlet north of the mouth of the Fraser River, was selected as the site for the western terminal of the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) in 1886, it soon replaced Victoria as the commercial centre and became the main port through which both coastal and interior products moved to world markets.
Thus, British Columbia developed contrasting coastal and interior settlement patterns, which remained the same throughout the 20th century, although densities increased. Population has always been primarily urban, and in 2001, 84.7% of the population was classified as urban, most in the southwest region.
The remaining population is dispersed in linear patterns across the southern half of the province, mainly occupying the north-south valleys or in resource-based settlements along the main transportation lines. The only major groups of farming population live in the Okanagan Valley and dispersed along the highway between Kamloops and Prince George. These linear population clusters are separated from each other by unoccupied mountain ranges. Few people live north of Prince George and Prince Rupert, except for an urban and agricultural cluster in the Peace River area of the northeast.
Metropolitan Vancouver is the largest city in the province and ranks third in population among the metropolitan cities of Canada. Victoria is the only other BC metropolitan city larger than 150 000 population. These 2 cities and many nearby municipalities have most of the secondary and consumer-goods manufacturing in the province; the main water, road, rail and air transportation and transfer facilities; most of the head offices and commercial and financial offices; and most of the cultural and entertainment attractions. These cities and their activities are supported by the largest number of farmers in the province, in the adjoining Lower Fraser Valley and along the east coast of Vancouver Island.
Other large cities are resource-based processors and service and supply centres for subregions dispersed throughout the province. Including their surrounding areas they had populations of from 60 000 to 150 000 in 2001, including PRINCE GEORGE, KAMLOOPS, KELOWNA, and NANAIMO. A number of smaller cities with populations of 10 000 to 60 000 include CRANBROOK, PENTICTON, VERNON, DAWSON CREEK, PRINCE RUPERT, COURTENAY, and PORT ALBERNI, FORT ST JOHN, TERRACE and WILLIAMS LAKE.
The labour force in 2004 had a participation rate of 65.5%, while the unemployment rate was 7.2%; both figures were close to the national average for 2001. People in manufacturing, trade and service industries make up most of the workforce. Those in primary industries total only about 3%. They include forest workers (but not those in sawmills and pulp and paper mills), fishers (but not those in fish-processing plants), miners (but not those in mineral processing) and farmers.
Two other sectors of the economy - construction, and transportation and warehousing - had 7% and 6% respectively. Many people are needed in transportation, both to move people and products within the large cities and to move natural resources in partially processed form to the coastal ports or to central Canadian and American markets.
British Columbia is a separate and distinct labour complex and has experienced patterns of industrial conflict sometimes different from the rest of Canada. A much higher percentage of workers belong to unions, and strikes have been frequent and prolonged.
Various reasons have been suggested for this; for example, that BC is an extension of the Pacific Northwest region of the US - the most unionized area in that country - and the province's workers have been influenced by their more highly paid American neighbours; that the concentration of economic life in Vancouver has led to centralization of unions and bargaining; and finally, that the rapid but erratic pattern of economic growth in the province has led to bitter dispute, particularly in the forest and construction industries, which are already vulnerable to seasonal and cyclical fluctuations.
Languages, Ethnicity and Religion
In the early part of this century more than 75% of the residents were of British origin and most of the population spoke English as their first language. In the mid-19th century the only group of non-British settlers were the CHINESE who worked as labourers in the mines of the Cariboo.
In the early 1880s many more Chinese were brought to BC as labourers for the building of the CPR. Afterwards many of them settled in Vancouver, where they formed the largest Chinese community in Canada. A smaller "Chinatown" also arose in Victoria. Most Chinese worked in service or commercial occupations.
JAPANESE CANADIANS also settled in southwestern BC between 1900 and 1940. They were a significant group in the fishing industry, in Fraser Valley farming and in a small commercial core in Vancouver.
The Aboriginal population was recorded as about 170 000 in the 2001 census, many of whom were nonstatus; in 2001 there were 112 305 registered native people. Most of the status Indians live on reserves dispersed throughout the province.
One of the few distinctive social groups that did not settle in southwestern BC was the DOUKHOBORS. In the 1920s and earlier this religious group migrated to south-central BC from the Prairies and settled on small communal farms in the Kootenay, Slocan, Columbia and Kettle valleys.
As in other parts of Canada, the percentage of people of British origin has declined rapidly since 1950. After 1970 the influx of large numbers of East and SOUTHEAST ASIANS and SOUTH ASIANS particularly affected BC. Some were REFUGEES; others sought better opportunities in service and business occupations.
These demographic changes in BC's population are reflected in the cityscapes particularly of Vancouver, in the variety of restaurants and the areas known as "Chinatown,""Little Italy" and the "Greek Village." English as a second language was a major subject in the province's primary schools in the 1970s. The French Canadian share of the population and language is minor in BC.
The figures for ethnic and national origins may be misleading because about one-half of the BC population was born within the province. In addition to immigrants who have recognizably distinct cultures and physical characteristics, there were even larger numbers who migrated to BC from other parts of Canada. BC is one of 3 provinces (also Ontario and Alberta) that receive the greatest number of in-migrants. The "newness" of BC and its rapid population growth contrast with those of the Atlantic provinces and Québec, most of whose population was born within the eastern region.
The earlier part of the province's history was marred by RACISM, particularly the anti-Asiatic riots of 1907 and the KOMAGATA MARU incident of 1914. Stirred up by politicians of all parties, fears were rampant that British Columbia's future as a "white province" was threatened. The population of Japanese and Chinese was less than 40 000 in 1921, but their concentration in the Lower Mainland and southern Vancouver Island and the restricted forms of employment they could take made them conspicuous.
Forced to take lower wages and hardworking, they were considered unfair competition by the unions and the agricultural community. The campaign of the Asiatic Exclusion League (established 1921) and others resulted in the Chinese Immigration Act of 1923, which effectively ended Chinese immigration.
Many Japanese were evicted from their coastal fishing villages during World War II and placed in INTERNMENT camps - a bitter episode in their history in Canada. Political discrimination against nonwhites in BC finally ended after World War II, when the Chinese and Hindu populations were enfranchised in 1947, with the Japanese following in 1949.
Since the near majority of people have some British ethnic background and are English-speaking, as in other parts of Canada they are predominantly CHRISTIAN within the UNITED, ANGLICAN and Roman CATHOLIC churches. The variety of other cultures and second languages can be seen in the relative significance of other religions such as BUDDHISM, SIKHISM and ISLAM. However, over one-third of the population claimed no religious affiliation.
Resource-based activities have been the basis of BC's economy throughout its modern history. The native people depended on the animal population of land and sea for their food, clothing and exchange. The first items of trade desired by Europeans were sea-otter pelts from the coast and animal furs from the interior.
Settlers of European origin were primarily attracted by mineral resources, notably gold in the central interior and southeast, and also coal on Vancouver Island, near Nanaimo and Cumberland. By the 1880s the tall, straight coniferous trees of the coast forest were being cut for lumber to supply other Pacific Rim settlements, and salmon were being canned at numerous river-mouth canneries to be shipped throughout the world.
In the 19th century the natural resources of BC were utilized to supply markets elsewhere in Anglo-America or in East Asia or Europe. Local manufacturing consisted primarily of some first-stage processing of these resources.
As population increased in the 20th century and concentrated in or near the ports of the southwest, consumer-goods manufacturing became possible in the southwestern cities, aided by the high cost of transporting manufactured goods from eastern Canada and the US and by an ample supply of inexpensive hydroelectric power. Agricultural settlement expanded across the lowland and delta of the Lower Fraser River. The management and financial activities concerned with resource developments remained in the coastal cities, mainly Vancouver, maintaining the long-established contrast between the primary activities of the north coast and interior, and the commercial business and assembly activities of the southwestern cities.
Forestry has been the main component of BC's economy throughout this century. Forest products rank first in value among provincial primary industries, and BC produces over half of Canada's sawn lumber, most of its plywood and 30% of its chemical pulp. In 1997 the timber harvest was 16.8 million m3. Forest product shipments reached $16.8 billion and accounted for nearly one-half of the province's total manufacturing.
Commercial logging began in the 1840s on Vancouver Island and spread to the FRASER RIVER GOLDRUSH of 1858. Lumber mills were established in the southwest after the middle of the 19th century to supply the building needs of the growing settlements and to export to nearby Pacific settlements. Temporary SAWMILLS also operated near all of the scattered mining communities in the interior; some of these mills, located on the 2 main railway lines, were able to export lumber eastward to the growing Prairie towns in the early 20th century.
Lumber production expanded rapidly along the coast after WWI, as the newly opened PANAMA CANAL made eastern US and European markets more accessible to West Coast mills. Most lumber companies made operational decisions to extend their logging camps northward along the coast and to transport the logs by a variety of water transport means to large sawmills around the Georgia Strait region. With minor exceptions, such as near Prince Rupert, this pattern of north coast primary cutting and south coast processing and export has been maintained.
Pulp and paper mills were established at a few places around the Strait of Georgia early in the 20th century, but these mills did not have large consuming markets for newsprint and paper similar to the markets in the eastern US available for eastern Canadian mills at that time. Unlike eastern mills, the pulp and paper mills of BC became integrated into existing sawmill operations and received much of their wood fibre raw material from product residue, such as sawdust and chips from adjoining lumber mills.
The pulp and paper industry remained coastal until the mid-1960s, when mills were opened in several places across the interior. This interior expansion was part of the general spread of the forest industry into the interior of the province, stimulated by increased foreign markets, improved interior road and rail transport, new government concessions and cutting rights to forested areas, and a concern for possible depletion of the coast forest reserves.
Throughout the 1970s the interior produced about half of the value of provincial forest products. Small sawmills disappeared along the coast early in this century and across the interior after 1950, and were replaced by very large, centrally located sawmills, sometimes with adjoining pulp and paper or paper mills.
Although water transport, often in self-dumping log barges, is still the chief means of transporting logs to the mills along the coast, water transport is rarely used in the interior - unlike the river-based log transport system which evolved in eastern Canada (eg, on the Miramichi and Ottawa rivers). Interior logs and finished forest products are all moved by road or rail and therefore all forestry-based settlements are located on the main railways or highways.
In 1986-87 the BC legislature passed 3 new acts dealing with the responsibilities of the Ministry of Forests in managing, protecting and conserving the forest resource. Pressures on the industry, which is hard-pressed in recessionary times, increase as demands grow for preservation of the forests for recreation, wildlife and aesthetic screens, and as a resource for future generations. The province has been successful in managing the resource and beginning in 1986 has planted more area than was harvested each year. In the mid-1980s the industry, after dramatically increasing its penetration of the US market, was under pressure from US producers for alleged unfair competition (see SOFTWOOD LUMBER DISPUTE). This dispute led to years of bitter negotiations and significant reductions in lumber exports to the US (see also FOREST and; FOREST ECONOMICS).
In the late 1980s the forestry sector came under increasing criticism for its forestry practices and the harvesting of old growth forests. Preservationists won some victories (Carmanah Valley and Clayoquot Sound) after initiating national and international campaigns. Through the Forest Reserve Act (1994) the provincial government is trying to prevent similar future confrontations by securing a commercial forest land base.
Mining and mineral processing employ a very small percentage of the labour force, but yielded almost $3 billion in sales and exports for BC in 2000. Coal, natural gas and copper account for about two-thirds of the total value of mineral shipments, which amounted to almost $5 billion in 2000. Other important minerals include oil, gold and zinc.
Mining became important in BC in 1858 with the Fraser GOLD RUSH and later discoveries in the Cariboo region. Between 1890 and 1910 the Kootenay region of southeastern BC became one of the most important mining areas of Canada. The huge smelter-refinery at Trail receives ore from BC, the Yukon and the NWT.
Coal was first mined near Port McNeill and soon after at Nanaimo on Vancouver Island in the mid-19th century. Immense coal deposits in the Fernie-Crowsnest Pass area were used by the Trail smelter and by the railways until they converted to diesel fuel. Both metallurgical and thermal coal are exported from southeastern BC to Japan and elsewhere. The younger, sedimentary rocks of northeastern BC, like those of the interior plains of Alberta, are the sources of coal, petroleum and natural gas. The latter 2 products are transported by pipelines to urban markets in southwestern BC and the adjoining northwestern states of the US.
Metal mines have opened and closed across the southern interior from Grand Forks to Princeton throughout this century. In the early 1980s mining in the area was highlighted by large, open-pit copper mines southwest of Kamloops. Other metal mines have produced intermittently across the Interior Plateau from near Williams Lake to Babine Lake in the northwest.
Mines have also operated intermittently along the coast of BC for more than a century. Base-metal mines opened and closed near Stewart, northeast of Prince Rupert, and at several places on Vancouver Island. Iron ore and copper, to name just 2 examples, have been exported to Japan from coastal mines. Because nearly all of the mineral production of BC is consumed outside of the province, the fortunes of the mining industry are largely determined outside the province.
In 1999, $1.7 billion worth of revenue was received from the fisheries and aquaculture industry in BC, and 15 000 were employed in the industry. Commercial fishing and sportfishing in the many large lakes in the interior of the province has been minor compared with the river-mouth, alongshore and deep-sea FISHERIES of the coast. An aggressive aquaculture program has improved the interior fishery and marketable amounts of trout are now produced.
The most valuable fishery, however, is for the 5 species of Pacific salmon, which have 2- to 5-year cycles of river spawning, sea migration and return to the same spawning rivers. As the returning fish approach and concentrate off river mouths, they are caught by large, modern fishing vessels. Although most coastal rivers produce some salmon, the largest catches are obtained off the mouths of the Fraser and Skeena. This method of harvest has resulted in seriously depleted fish stocks and a threat to the fishery as a whole.
Early in this century salmon canneries were dispersed all along the BC coast, close to the catching areas because salmon are perishable. However, the gradual introduction of improved boats, with longer ranges and refrigeration, resulted in the closing of most canneries on the central coast and the concentration of fish processing into a few large plants near Prince Rupert and Vancouver.
Other fish caught along the coast and offshore include HERRING (and a valuable by-product, herring roe), halibut and other groundfish such as COD and sole, as well as a large variety of shellfish, particularly oysters which are farmed at various locations along the coast. Shellfish production has increased steadily and now accounts for $110 million of the total value of the harvest. The physical character of fjorded, submerged coastal BC provides numerous shelters and harbours for fishing vessels, but the province lacks the broad, shallow offshore continental shelf which is a favourable fish habitat off East Coast Canada.
In cultivated land as a percentage of total provincial area, BC ranks second lowest in Canada, behind Newfoundland; however, BC still produces about 5% of Canada's total agricultural products. Total farm cash receipts in 2000 were about $2 billion, with the most productive crops being vegetables and floriculture. Ginseng has also become an important crop, with production amounting to $2.7 million in 2000.
Farming began in BC to supply the trading posts in the mid-19th century. The growing cities of Vancouver and Victoria stimulated agricultural expansion in the Fraser Valley and on Vancouver Island. In the 1890s fruit and vegetable growing were established in the Okanagan and beef ranching in the Cariboo region.
The largest area of cultivated land is in the Peace River area, which accounts for about 90% of the grain harvested in BC. Aided by the longest frost-free season in Canada, the small farms of the Lower Fraser River produce dairy and livestock products, vegetables, small fruits and specialty crops such as blueberries, cranberries and flower bulbs. In the dry southern interior, agriculture flourishes only where irrigation systems have been established.
The narrow benches and terraces above Lake Okanagan comprise one of Canada's 3 main fruit-growing regions and one of 2 grape-growing areas. The small, intensive farms produce apples, pears, peaches, cherries, plums, grapes and apricots. Cattle ranching is carried on across small areas of grassland on the southern Interior Plateau, but not enough meat is produced to supply even the Vancouver market.
Despite the scarcity of high-quality agricultural land in BC, in the period from 1966-71 urban sprawl was consuming over 6000 ha per year of prime agricultural land. About 20% of the prime agricultural land of the Lower Fraser and 30% of the Okanagan had already been converted when in 1973 the Land Commission Act froze the disposition of agricultural land for nonagricultural use, despite the great demand of it for housing, industry, hobby farms and country estates.
British Columbia produces a surplus of energy in the form of electrical power, coal, petroleum and natural gas. The small, accessible coalfields on eastern Vancouver Island and in the southwestern Interior Plateau were worked out early in the 20th century. The coalfields in the southern Rocky Mountains were developed at the beginning of this century to supply smelters in the Kootenay region.
Beginning in the 1960s technological improvements in open-pit mining, unit trains and new port facilities made it possible for both thermal and metallurgical coals to be mined in the southeast in larger amounts for export to Japan.
In addition, other coal mines were opened in the 1980s in the Rocky Mountains and foothills of northeastern BC, also for export. Because both areas are far from ocean transport the rail system had to be improved to move such large quantities of coal into world markets.
British Columbia is well endowed with steep and rugged landforms and ample precipitation, which together produce enormous seasonal runoffs in numerous rivers and vast amounts of potential hydroelectric power (75 000 to 50 000 gigawatt hours are produced annually). Some 70 000 km of transmission lines are needed to deliver electricity to the market. Hydroelectric power was first produced at the close of the 19th century from small rivers in the southwest for urban consumers in Victoria and Vancouver. The largest single power site in the southwest prior to 1940 was developed on Bridge River, just east of the Coast Mountains. The southwestern power sources were sufficient for industrial and residential markets in the Georgia Strait region until the 1960s.
Around the turn of the century, the Kootenay and other rivers in the southeast were dammed to produce electric power for the many local mines and towns. This power was ample until the 1960s. Following international agreement, the Columbia River was dammed at Mica Creek in the "Big Bend" north of Revelstoke in the late 1960s to help even out the flow of the river and make American downstream power plants more efficient (see COLUMBIA RIVER TREATY). In the 1970s, turbines were installed in the dam to produce electric power for metropolitan Vancouver.
In the northwest, a special power project was completed in 1954 to supply inexpensive power for a large aluminum smelter at Kitimat. In this project the headwaters of the NECHAKO RIVER, a fish-spawning tributary of the FRASER RIVER, were dammed and the water diverted through a tunnel in the Coast Mountains to a large subterranean power plant at Kemano on the coast. This has resulted in reduced spawning activity of salmon in the river.
The northeastern section of the province was the last to be developed for hydropower. As a result of technological improvements in long-distance transmission facilities, it became possible to dam the Peace River where it spilled out of the Rocky Mountains and to send the power about 1000 km to the growing markets in metropolitan Vancouver. The Peace River development is now the third-largest hydropower producer in Canada, with a capacity of over 2730 MW. The Fraser River, occupying the central part of the province, is the greatest potential source of hydroelectric power, but technology has not yet solved the problem of using the river for both fish and power (see BC HYDRO).
Land transportation has been funnelled into the narrow river valleys across the southern half of the province. The 2 transcontinental railways use the Fraser and Skeena valleys to cross through the western mountain barrier to reach the coast. Only 4 passes through the Rocky Mountains have been used by the railways and, later, roads to enter BC from the east. From south to north these strategic passes are CROWSNEST, KICKING HORSE, YELLOWHEAD and PINE.
The only south-north railway, the BRITISH COLUMBIA RAILWAY (originally called the Pacific Great Eastern), is owned by the provincial government. In the 1950s it was extended from Vancouver through Prince George to the Peace River area in the northeast; another extension of the railway into the unoccupied area northwest of Prince George was halted in the 1970s. Older than British Columbia Rail is Southern British Columbia Railway, which until 1988 was a part of BC Hydro. It provides a freight service between Chilliwack and New Westminster and onto Annacis Island on the Fraser River.
British Columbia lacked an interconnected highway system in the interior until the 1950s. The first paved road entirely across the province, the TRANS-CANADA HIGHWAY, was not completed until 1962. The COQUIHALLA HIGHWAY completed in 1990 was built to lighten traffic on trucking routes and to enhance regional tourism. Most roads still follow the valley floors - where people and settlements are - and therefore have a general south-north pattern, with fewer east-west links.
The provincial government is responsible for the construction and maintenance of all public roads in unorganized territory and for classified arterial highways through incorporated areas. Several parts of BC have little or no land transportation lines.
There are no roads along the long section of mainland coast between Powell River and Prince Rupert because of extremely high construction costs around the innumerable fjords, plus the lack of permanent settlements. Only one road crosses northwestern BC from Prince Rupert (and Stewart) to Cassiar and the ALASKA HIGHWAY; the latter is the only road across northeastern BC.
Coastal British Columbia is served by an extensive ferry service which moves freight, cars and passengers across the Strait of Georgia. Small coastal boats, tugs and barges move natural resources, supplies and people along the sheltered "Inside Passage" between Vancouver Island and the mainland and northward to Prince Rupert, Haida Gwaii and the Alaska Panhandle. Early in the 20th century, shallow-draft lake vessels operated during summer on the long, narrow lakes of the central and southeast interior, but they gradually disappeared after all-season highways were built.
All major cities in British Columbia are served by airlines, which, like rail, road and water transportation, further reinforce the dominance of metropolitan Vancouver and the densely occupied southwestern corner of the province.
Tourism and Recreation
British Columbia is known internationally for the extent and diversity of its opportunities for outdoor recreation, particularly sportfishing, camping, hiking, boat cruising, driving for pleasure, skiing and hunting. In 2000 tourism generated $4.5 billion and 111 890 jobs.
Most tourists come by car, with the heaviest flow via Revelstoke, Kamloops and the Fraser Canyon or south from Salmon Arm down the Okanagan. Much of northern BC still lacks a network of roads and therefore attracts relatively few people. Most of the visitors come from the Prairies - three-quarters of all Canadians visiting BC come from Alberta - with significant traffic from the states of Washington, Oregon and California. Some 7 million American travellers took trips to Canada via BC in 2000.
The spectacular mountain scenery and varied local physical environments are most accessible in the many provincial and federal parks. The national parks are mainly in the mountains of eastern BC and include YOHO, KOOTENAY, GLACIER and MOUNT REVELSTOKE. PACIFIC RIM NATIONAL PARK on western Vancouver Island has the longest continuous stretch of sand beach in the province.
In July of 1987, an agreement was reached to establish GWAII HAANAS NATIONAL PARK RESERVE in the Queen Charlotte Islands [Haida Gwaii]. This unique rain forest is one of North America's most diverse plant and animal wildlife habitats and is the ancestral home of the Haida, whose ancient sites and totem poles are of significant archaeological value (see ANTHONY ISLAND).
BC has over 440 provincial parks and recreation areas totalling more than 7.6 million hectares. These are classified into 4 types: recreation areas; class A parks, which are usually campsites and picnic grounds; larger class B parks, which include very large areas such as GARIBALDI, STRATHCONA (BC's first provincial park in 1911) and Tweedsmuir, class C parks, which are small local recreation areas. There are also 131 ecological reserves around the province.
Government and Politics
British Columbia is governed by a legislative assembly of 75 members elected from single-constituency ridings. Prior to 1991 2-person ridings were common because of a disproportionate concentration of population living in the urban areas around Vancouver. Electoral districts are redefined after each major census to maintain representation in proportion to current population distribution.
A lieutenant-governor, appointed by Canada's governor general on the advice of the prime minister, is the head of provincial government in title only. Power resides with the premier of the province, who is the leader of the political party winning the most seats in the legislature at elections, which must be held at least every 5 years. See BC LIEUTENANT-GOVERNORS: TABLE; BC PREMIERS: TABLE.
A cabinet is chosen by the premier from the majority party and government service is provided by a civil service, headed by deputy ministers, with headquarters in Victoria. BC has 6 appointed senators in the federal Senate and 32 elected members in the federal House of Commons in Ottawa.
The highest court in BC is the Court of Appeal, made up of the chief justice and 10 puisne justices. The Supreme Court is lower than the Court of Appeal; it has a chief justice and 26 puisne justices. There are 7 county courts, although the term "county" is not used to define an administrative unit.
Magistrates and justices of the peace may preside over provincial courts, which may deal with family matters and juvenile delinquents. The governor general-in-council (the Crown, in effect) appoints all provincial judges. The attorney general is the chief law officer of the province, empowered to act in all litigation in which the province is a party; the ministry is responsible for the administration of justice, policing and the provision of legal services.
Most people in British Columbia live in communities with local government, but most of the area of the province has no local government, or people, and the resources and lands of this unorganized territory are administered by departments in the provincial government.
Less than 1% of the provincial area is incorporated into cities, towns, villages, district municipalities and 29 regional districts with various forms of local government. These incorporated areas include about 80% of the provincial population. In all municipalities, local voters elect a mayor and several aldermen as members of a council. In the 99% of the provincial area classified as Unorganized Territory, there is no specific local government except for the 29 regional districts.
Each regional district has a board made up of local elected and nominated members, plus provincial government representation. Regional districts are established by Cabinet partly to assist the joint financing of certain services such as water, sewers, regional parks and transportation among a group of municipalities. These districts may do regional planning but the implementation of the plans is the responsibility of the local municipalities. BC does not have township and county administrative units, as have other parts of Canada.
Most of the revenue of the provincial government comes from taxes levied on a wide range of property, sales and incomes of citizens, companies and corporations. For example, there are taxes on nonmunicipal lands, gasoline, liquor and tobacco, and a general provincial sales tax; provincial licences and permit fees include charges for the right to cut timber on crown land and for the use of other natural resources. The province receives a share of income tax which is collected by the federal government and returned to the province as part of various federal-provincial tax-sharing arrangements.
Most of the expenditures of the government go to education, health and social services, the latter including hospitals, medical care, welfare and social-assistance payments. Part of public expenditure pays the salaries of civil servants who administer the government bureaucracy and provide services to citizens. The government also maintains ferries, which are more important in British Columbia than in other provinces, as well as roads and bridges.
British Columbia's health services are provided through local regional health boards which are semi-autonomous bodies operated under the aegis of the Ministry of Health. The provincial government provides all personnel working within the health districts. All permanent residents of the province qualify for benefits under the Hospital Insurance Act, including hospital care and doctors' fees. This medical service is partly paid for by premiums paid by all residents. The Ministry of Health also operates long-term care programs, care for mental patients and a subsidized ambulance service.
The federal party lines of Liberal and Conservative were not introduced to the province until 1903, when Richard MCBRIDE, the first Conservative leader, became premier. The Liberal Party formed its first government in 1916, led by H.C. BREWSTER, and the Conservatives regained power in 1928 under Simon TOLMIE.
Many labour leaders had come from Great Britain, bringing experience as organizers, and they gained early success in BC when legislation for improved working conditions and social services was introduced. Various third parties were active. The Labour Party elected members in 1920, 1924, 1928 and 1933.
Progressive and socialist parties emerged with the serious economic difficulties of the GREAT DEPRESSION, and the Conservatives were nearly wiped out in 1933, finishing behind the new CO-OPERATIVE COMMONWEALTH FEDERATION (CCF), which won 7 seats and 31% of the vote, and the new Liberal government of Premier T.D. PATTULLO which ruled for the next 8 years. Premiers John HART (1941-47) and Byron I. JOHNSON (1947-52), both Liberals, were called upon to lead COALITION GOVERNMENTS.
In 1952 a new party led by W.A.C. BENNETT broke away from the Conservative Party and called itself SOCIAL CREDIT, after a similar party in Alberta. This party instantly won a minority government in 1952 and then governed the province for 20 years during a period of enormous resource development and growth, particularly in the interior of the province, which was being better interconnected internally and linked to the southwest coast by road-building programs and the northern extension of the British Columbia Railway to the Peace River area.
The NEW DEMOCRATIC PARTY (formerly CCF) became the Official Opposition in the 1960s with the virtual disappearance of the provincial Liberal and Conservative parties. The NDP was elected to government for the first time in 1972, led by David BARRETT. The electorate has tended to polarize in roughly equal numbers around the 2 parties, with Social Credit advocating free enterprise and government restraint, and the NDP advocating moderate socialism and government economic and social involvement.
Social Credit regained power in 1975, led by William BENNETT, son of W.A.C. Bennett, and was re-elected in 1979, 1983, and again in 1986 under a new leader, William VANDER ZALM. Rita JOHNSTON, Canada's first female premier, succeeded Vander Zalm as leader of the scandal-plagued Socreds as premier in 1991, only to be defeated at the polls later that year by the NDP, led by former mayor of Vancouver Michael HARCOURT. That election saw the Social Credit reduced to little more than a rump party and the return of the Liberals as a major force in BC provincial politics, forming the Official Opposition for the first time in 40 years. In 1996 the NDP won their second consecutive mandate, under Glen CLARK. He resigned, under pressure, in August 1999. In 2001, Liberal Gordon Campbell came to power.
Elementary schools were established in Victoria in 1852, a few years after a fort was built there by the Hudson's Bay Co, and they were maintained by the colonial government after 1858. The Public School Act of 1872 established a free provincial school system. The first secondary schools were available in Victoria in 1876 and in Vancouver in 1890.
The elementary and secondary education system in BC consists of kindergarten to grade 12. Public school education is provided for children of school age, ages 5 to 19. The system is administered by local school boards, made up of elected local citizens, with financial support mainly from the provincial government. School is compulsory for children between the ages of 6 and 16. In 2001, there were almost 1800 schools serving over 613 000 elementary/secondary students at a cost of over $4 billion.
Children who live in isolated areas or who are unable to attend school can study via DISTANCE LEARNING or by taking correspondence courses developed by the Ministry of Education. These courses are also available to adults wishing to finish their high school education. The curricula for school courses and programs are established by the Ministry of Education and are usually similar throughout all the schools in the province. This uniformity allows for student transfers from one district to another. Within this structure, however, individual schools and classes may adapt the curriculum for local needs.
Almost 350 fee-charging independent schools operate in BC, most of which are religious, including 75 Catholic schools. Only 12 private schools are modelled on the British system. Other private schools include various Protestant, Waldorf, Montessori, Jewish, Sikh, Muslim and nondenominational schools. Schools that meet provincial curriculum and teacher certification criteria have access to partial funding. Almost 9% of the school age population of BC is enrolled in independent schools.
Parents also have the option of teaching their children at home. "Home schooling" is where an education program is provided and supervised by the parents. The home-schooled student is required to be registered by a public, independent or correspondence school. The BC College of Teachers is responsible for the certification of teachers in the province and examining qualifications of teachers from other areas.
The public post-secondary education system in BC is structured to meet the increasing demand for advanced education and training, brought about by the radical changes in the province's economic base in recent years. BC has 4 types of institutions: research universities, university colleges, colleges and institutes. There are 4 traditional research universities.
The original university in the province was the UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA, located on a scenic peninsula adjoining the western edge of Vancouver. Victoria College, affiliated with UBC, supplied the first 2 years of university education to residents of Victoria; it was expanded to university status in 1963 (see UNIVERSITY OF VICTORIA). A new university, SIMON FRASER, was built in Burnaby in 1965 to accommodate the greatly increased population of metropolitan Vancouver. In the mid-1990s, 3 new universities opened their doors; University of Northern British Columbia (1994), Royal Roads University (1995) and the Technical University of British Columbia (1997).
The OPEN LEARNING AGENCY offers correspondence courses and includes an Open University, Open College and the Knowledge Network, which is a telecommunications system using satellite television and ground line networks to deliver video courses, computer-based courses or live interactive programming.
There are 11 COMMUNITY COLLEGES in BC which attempt to meet the specific needs of the geographic region they serve. These are comprehensive institutions that provide programs ranging from literacy and academic upgrading to vocational and trades training. They also offer technical or career training and first- and second-year university transfer programs.
There are 4 university colleges which offer the same range of programs as a regular community college, but also offer full degree programs. There are also 6 institutes offering training in more specialized fields: 2 institutes of technology, a justice institute, an institute of art and design and 2 aboriginal institutes. In 2001-2002, BC budgeted over $1.9 billion on post-secondary education and over $4 billion on all forms of education, including post-secondary, elementary/secondary and trade schools.
The culture of the people of BC has evolved from the traditions of the people who migrated to the region. British influences were strong in the 19th century, being brought by settlers and entrepreneurs from England who came directly to the colonies and the new province.
In the 20th century British cultural characteristics were diversified by people from Eastern Canada who had second- or third-generation British origins. These Eastern influences became more dominant after 1950 when internal migration from Eastern Canada rapidly increased BC's population and brought the institutions, societies and cultural events and activities found across the rest of Canada to BC. Many of Canada's finest writers, such as Phyllis WEBB and George BOWERING, are resident in BC.
The mix of BC's culture is different from that of the rest of Canada in 2 notable ways. First, the mixture of people from India, Pakistan, Malaysia, the Philippines, Hong Kong, Japan and China brings distinct forms and activities to West Coast culture. At one time these characteristics were visible in turbans, saris, etc, but distinctive clothing has now virtually disappeared except for special cultural or religious events. "Chinatown" remains an enduring part of the urban landscape of central Vancouver.
West Coast native peoples, the second distinct culture group, have a highly developed culture (see NORTHWEST COAST NATIVE ART). Native arts and crafts have been revived in recent decades and have left their imprint on the broader society. The province's most famous artist, Emily CARR, was profoundly influenced by native art.
The BC government gives financial assistance to cultural and ethnic groups, publishers and community organizations through the BC Cultural Fund (established in 1967). Additional activities are also aided by grants from LOTTERIES. An arts council, Cultureworks! was established in 1995.
Major museums, archives and art galleries are located in Vancouver and Victoria and, in addition, local museums are maintained in several smaller cities in the interior. The Centennial Museum and the H.R. MACMILLAN Planetarium and Gordon Southam Observatory, located on the waterfront in the western part of the city, adjoin the Vancouver City Archives and the distinctive Vancouver Maritime Museum. The latter, in which the famous RCMP schooner ST ROCH is preserved, emphasizes the importance of the sea in Vancouver's past and present.
The Royal British Columbia Museum in Victoria is noted for its lifelike panoramas and displays and for the several floors of material illustrating the natural environment and native and early European settlements. The UBC Museum of Anthropology, designed by Arthur ERICKSON, houses an impressive collection of Northwest Coast native artifacts.
Numerous theatrical companies perform in Victoria and Vancouver. The geographical problem of the concentration of cultural, social and athletic events in the southwestern corner of the province and their scarcity elsewhere is a well-known theme in BC.
The VANCOUVER CANUCKS have been in the NHL since the 1970-71 season and the BRITISH COLUMBIA LIONS in the CFL since 1954; the latter now play in BC Place - Canada's first covered stadium. Vancouver acquired a professional BASKETBALL team in 1994, though they were sold and moved to Memphis in 2001.
All of the major cities have daily newspapers and the smaller coastal and interior cities publish weekly newspapers. Similarly, the major television and radio stations are in Vancouver and Victoria, but many smaller communities have their own radio and television stations. In fact, BC had the largest number of independent AM (14) and FM (52) radio stations in Canada.
Most of the province's book and magazine publishers are in Vancouver, which is in the unique position of being an attractive market for eastern publishers and media, but also having just a large enough share of the British Columbia population and income to be a sufficient market for local firms.
HISTORIC SITES include FORT LANGLEY, the first fur-trading post in the Lower Fraser Valley, BARKERVILLE and FORT STEELE. The provincial government has numerous historical signs at scenic pull-off sites along all major highways.
British Columbia was one of the last frontiers of discovery in North America. In 1774 Spaniards under Juan PÉREZ HERNÀNDEZ were probably the first Europeans to see the coast of BC. They did not land, but Pérez claimed the region for Spain. Four years later James COOK took his 2 British ships into NOOTKA SOUND on the west coast of Vancouver Island. Within a few years British traders came by sea and developed a flourishing fur trade with coastal native peoples.
In 1789 Spain and Britain disputed ownership of West Coast North America. The Spanish had established a trading post at Nootka Sound and seized British ships there. This NOOTKA SOUND CONTROVERSY was settled by the Nootka Conventions of 1790-94, which gave equal trading rights to both countries but did not determine ownership.
British claims were strengthened after 1792 when ships under George VANCOUVER carried out a careful 3-year mapping of the coast from Oregon to Alaska. Vancouver named many of the bays, inlets and coastal landform features. In this period of worldwide European colonialism, there was no concern among European governments and businessmen that this area was already occupied by native peoples.
In 1793 the first European report about the interior of BC was made by the NORTH WEST CO fur trader, Alexander MACKENZIE. He entered the region from the East via the Peace and Upper Fraser rivers, exploring westward across the Chilcotin Plateau and through the Coast Mountains to the long inlet at BELLA COOLA.
Two other members of the NWC, Simon FRASER and David THOMPSON, explored other parts of the interior early in the 19th century and opened fur trade posts supplied from Montréal - the first permanent settlements in the province. In 1808 Fraser reached the mouth of the river which now bears his name, and Thompson found the mouth of the Columbia River in 1811, after exploring the river routes of southeastern BC.
For about 50 years, while eastern North America was being occupied and settled by agricultural people and dotted with commercial cities, the mountainous western part of the continent remained little-known territory on the fringes of fur-trade empires controlled from eastern cities.
During the first half of the 19th century, the British-owned HUDSON'S BAY COMPANY controlled the western fur trade, including the area of present-day Washington and Oregon. As American settlers moved into the southern part of this region in the 1830s, they refused to recognize the authority of the British company.
Conflicting territorial claims (the US claimed north to lat 54° 40´) were settled in the 1846 OREGON TREATY, establishing the southern boundary of BC along the 49th parallel, except for Vancouver Island. In anticipation of this result, the HBC moved its headquarters to newly established FORT VICTORIA in 1843.
In 1849 the British government granted Vancouver Island to the HBC for colonization, and in 1851 James DOUGLAS, an official of the company, became governor of the colony. In 1856 Douglas established a legislative assembly for Vancouver Island (periodically called Vancouver's Island). At midcentury the only non-native settlements in what was to become British Columbia were fur trade posts on the coast, such as Victoria, Nanaimo and FORT LANGLEY, and in the interior, such as Kamloops, Fort (later Prince) George and FORT ST JAMES.
This quiet period of history ended in 1858 when gold was discovered in the sand bars along the Lower Fraser River. The ensuing GOLD RUSHES brought thousands of fortune hunters, mainly from the California goldfields, but also from other parts of the world. Many came by boat from San Francisco, crowding into inadequate facilities in Victoria to buy supplies and receive permits.
Prospecting proceeded upstream along the banks and bars of the Fraser River during 1858. The town of Yale was established as a transshipping centre at the south end of Fraser Canyon and the eastern end of water transport from the Fraser River mouth. Gold seekers walked the tributaries of the Fraser River and major finds were made east of Quesnel.
The boomtown of Barkerville arose at the western edge of the Cariboo Mountains as the chief service town for the Cariboo goldfields. At its peak in the early 1860s Barkerville probably held a fluctuating population of about 10 000, making it the largest settlement in western Canada.
In order to establish government and maintain law and order around the goldfields, the British established the mainland colony of British Columbia in 1858 under the authority of James Douglas, who remained governor of Vancouver Island. The new settlement of NEW WESTMINSTER, located slightly inland on the north bank of the Fraser River delta, was proclaimed capital of the new colony in 1859. This administrative centre controlled river traffic entering the Fraser River en route to the interior. In the early 1860s the amazing feat of building the CARIBOO ROAD along the walls of the Fraser Canyon was accomplished in order to move supplies to interior settlements.
With gold production declining and people leaving, the British government united the 2 colonies in 1866 to reduce administrative costs. New Westminster was the capital of the combined colony for 2 years before protests from the older capital, Victoria, resulted in the seat of government being moved there in 1868. The resulting physical separation of the capital from the majority of the people and economic activity on the mainland created later communication problems for the region. Many government services and offices had to be duplicated on the mainland.
After 1867 the British colony on the West Coast debated whether it should join the new CONFEDERATION of eastern provinces known as Canada. In 1871 the 12 000 non-native residents of BC agreed to enter the Dominion of Canada on the condition that the federal government build a transcontinental railway to link it with the East. The new province was to wait, rather impatiently at times, for 15 years before the CANADIAN PACIFIC RAILWAY reached the southwest coast.
The union with Canada was an unhappy one at first. The new province ran heavily into debt; the cost of governing a large mountainous area with few people was very high and revenues from resource users were low. More than one-third of the province's white residents lived in or near Victoria. Even by 1881 the white population of 24 000 was less than the estimated 25 000 Native people.
The hoped-for expansion of trade with East Asia did not develop immediately with the completion of the CPR in 1885. But the railway did bring people to the port of Vancouver and by 1901 that city had surpassed Victoria in population. Vancouver's population of almost 27 010 in 1901 had been achieved in 15 years, whereas Victoria had only 23 688 people after 58 years of occupation.
Entrepreneurs came to British Columbia around the turn of the century to exploit the province's vast resources. A salmon-cannery industry was established along the coast. Sawmills were in operation all around the shores of Georgia Strait and particularly along eastern Vancouver Island. The first pulp and paper mill was completed at Powell River in 1912.
The major expansion of the forest industry came, however, after WWI, when the opening of the Panama Canal gave access to markets around the north Atlantic region. BC attracted a different type of settler from those who settled on the land on the Prairies and across eastern Canada. A need for capital and access to natural resources for export were more important than ownership of farmland.
In the 1890s the major resource development and settlement in interior BC centred on the mining activity in the Kootenay region of the southeast. Prospectors, mainly from mining camps in western Montana and Idaho, moved northward along the valleys and discovered gold and base metals in the area west of KOOTENAY LAKE. Mining camps arose in the Slocan Valley, at ROSSLAND, near Grand Forks and elsewhere. NELSON became the main service, supply and administrative centre, with a population of about 4500 in 1911.
Railways extended northward into the region from the US, and the CPR built a line westward through the Crowsnest Pass in 1899 to bring coal from FERNIE to smelters in the mining centres. By about 1914, however, many of the mines had closed and some towns were abandoned, although other mines opened in later years. The extension of the Kettle Valley branch of the CPR to the coast during WWI came after the peak of mining activity in the Kootenay region.
Agriculture brought settlers to the south-central interior. At the time of the Cariboo Gold Rush, ranching was established in the grassland valleys and rolling basins across the southern interior plateau. Irrigation was developed early in the century west of Kamloops and in the northern Okanagan Valley. Irrigation for orchards that spread south from Vernon aided settlement projects for returning soldiers after WWI (see VETERANS' LAND ACT).
The building of the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway west from Edmonton through the Upper Fraser, Bulkley and Skeena valleys in 1907-14 was intended to give Canada a second gateway through the mountains to the Pacific coast. Prince George then became a minor sawmill centre, with rail access eastward to the growing housing market in the Prairie provinces. But the port and rail terminal at Prince Rupert never developed the anticipated volume of traffic, partly because there was little need for incoming freight. The small town remained mainly a fisheries centre, with continuing hopes.
Resource-based activities suffered serious economic decline in BC during 1930-45 because of the loss of world markets. After about 1950, however, the improved transportation system did much to integrate the interior resource economies and settlements with coastal collection, processing and management centres.
Appropriately, the theme of Expo 86, held in Vancouver, was transportation and communications. Thousands of Canadians migrated to BC, attracted by the mild climate and perceived economic opportunities, joining thousands of other immigrants from Asia. These people were not only labour and management for the growing commercial and service occupations, they were also consumers of goods, services and entertainment. In the 21st century, BC is one of Canada's most prosperous and fastest-growing provinces.
Author J. LEWIS ROBINSON
G.P.V. and H.B. Akrigg, British Columbia Chronicle, 1847-71 (1977); Mary L. Barker, Natural Resources of British Columbia and Yukon (1977); M.L. Cuddy and J. Scott, British Columbia in Books (1974); Albert L. Farley, Atlas of British Columbia (1979); Robin Fisher, Contact and Conflict (1977); Margaret A. Ormsby, British Columbia (1958); H.K. Ralston and J. Friesen, eds, Historical Essays on British Columbia (1976); J. Lewis Robinson, British Columbia (1973); Marie Tippett and Douglas Cole, From Desolation to Splendour (1977).
Links to Other Sites
The website for the Historica-Dominion Institute, parent organization of The Canadian Encyclopedia and the Encyclopedia of Music in Canada. Check out their extensive online feature about the War of 1812, the "Heritage Minutes" video collection, and many other interactive resources concerning Canadian history, culture, and heritage.
BC Cities and Towns
Find the website for a specific city or town in British Columbia. Also features documents and reports about municipal government operatons in B.C. From civicinfo.bc.ca.
Government of British Columbia
The official website of the Government of British Columbia. Scroll down to the bottom of the page for a list of links to specific departments, agencies, and programs.
Symbols of Canada
An illustrated guide to national and provincial symbols of Canada, our national anthem, national and provincial holidays, and more. Click on "Historical Flags of Canada" and then "Posters of Historical Flags of Canada" for additional images. From the Canadian Heritage website.
BC Archives "Amazing Time Machine"
British Columbia's history is portrayed in documents, photographs, and other images from the BC Archives.
Ecoregions of British Columbia
This Government of British Columbia website features a comprehensive, well-illustated survey of the province's varied ecological regions.
Journeys & Transformations: British Columbia Landscapes
Explore the fascinating natural and human history of British Columbia through this multimedia website from the Royal British Columbia Museum.
Encyclopedia of British Columbia
Fast facts and a timeline of the history of British Columbia from the website for the "Encyclopedia of British Columbia." Most of the website content, including articles, photos, and graphics, is available through subscription.
Maps of provinces and territories from "The Atlas of Canada," Natural Resources Canada.
The Chung Collection
This multimedia UBC website features poignant stories about the hardships and challenges faced by Chinese immigrants who came to Canada in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
The Colonial Despatches
View digitized copies of correspondence (dated 1846 - 1859) between the British Colonial Office and the "colonies" of Vancouver Island and British Columbia. Search or browse this site for references to specific individuals, communities, companies, or industries in the province. Also includes digitized images of maps of various locations. From the website for the University of Victoria.
Cariboo Gold Rush
This online collection of personal diaries, journals, letters, memoirs, and other primary sources highlights the hazardous adventures of the hardy folks who participated in the Cariboo Gold Rush. From the B.C. Heritage Branch, Province of British Columbia.
Maritime Museum of British Columbia
The Maritime Museum of British Columbia chronicles the maritime history of this coastal province.
The History of BC Parks
A brief history of British Columbia's provincial park system. Also check this site for info on parks throughout the province.
Tides of Life — West Coast Communities
This multimedia exhibit profiles the resource-based communities of British Columbia's coastal region, where natural resources have had a profound impact on both history and economic development. From the Museum of Civilization
British Columbia Wildflowers
This extensively illustrated field guide to wildflowers of the southern interior of British Columbia was produced by the Royal British Columbia Museum and Okanagan University College.
The Edge of the World: BC's Early Years
Watch a series of short films about the events, people, and places that shaped British Columbia's early history. Features a wealth of archival photographs. From knowledge.ca.
Fort Langley National Historic Site
This website focuses on the history of Fort Langley, early British settlements on the west coast, and Hudson’s Bay Company activities in the region. From Parks Canada.
See maps and statistical data for regions and communities throughout British Columbia. A Government of British Columbia website.
BC Geographical Names
Search the BC Geographical Names Information System for historical and geographical data about specific locations in British Columbia.
Geographical Names of Canada
Search the "Canadian Geographical Names Data Base" for the official name of a city, town, lake (or any other geographical feature) in any province or territory in Canada. See also the real story of how Toronto got its name. A Natural Resources Canada website.
Amor De Cosmos
A biography of Amor De Cosmos with photographs and other archival resources. This “Canadian Confederation” website is from Library and Archives Canada.
An overview of the major issues and events leading up to British Columbia's entry into Confederation. Includes biographies of prominent personalities, old photos and related archival material. From Library and Archives Canada.
An interactive guide to "Geologic Journey," a CBC documentary series which traces the extraordinary geologic history of the North America continent.
Premiers of British Columbia
A list of premiers of British Columbia, 1871 - today. From the Government of British Columbia website.
How do the cycles and modes of the Pacific Ocean affect the water cycle?
This report examines potential impacts of Pacific ocean cycles (climate change) on some components of the water cycle and the climate of Canada's West Coast.
Vanishing British Columbia
A visual record of early settlements in British Columbia. By author and artist Michael Kluckner. View farmscapes, aboriginal settlements, abandoned churches, lodges, relics of railway travel, company towns, and more.
This article describes how pioneer entrepreneur Robert Dunsmuir made his fortune in the British Columbia coal industry and other business ventures. From Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.
The B.C. Museum of Mining
This online collection of old newsletters and photographs provides a glimpse into local mining operations and community life. Also offers an extensive teacher’s resource guide and a summary of lingering environmental issues related to past mining activity.
British Columbia Archives
Explore the fascinating history of BC through online digitized copies of selected government documents, manuscripts, maps, architectural plans, photographs, illustrations, audio and video files, newspapers and much more.
A history of the B.C. Day holiday. Also offers information about the names used for the legislative buildings in each of Canada’s provincial capitals. A Government of British Columbia website.
Journeys & Transformations
Beautiful landscapes and stunning close-ups of colourful wildlife highlight this multimedia tour of British Columbia history. Includes related learning activities. Produced by the Virtual Museum Canada and the Royal BC Museum.
Aboriginal Place Names
This site highlights Aboriginal place names found across Canada. From the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development.
This extensive online photograph collection documents the history of the northern British Columbia communities of McBride, Valemount, Prince George, and Mackenzie. Features images of pack trains, river freighters, railways and highways, historic buildings, local residents at work and play, and much more. From the Fraser Fort-George Regional Museum.
An extensive biography of Edgar Dewdney, civil engineer, contractor, politician, office holder, and lieutenant governor. Provides details about his involvement with Indian and Métis communities in the North-West Territories, the settlement of the West, the construction of the transcontinental railway, and related events. From the “Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online.”
National Inventory of Canadian Military Memorials
A searchable database of over 5,100 Canadian military memorials. Provides photographs, descriptions, and the wording displayed on plaques. Also a glossary of related terms. A website from the Directorate of History and Heritage.
Sir Henry James Warre
A collection of paintings and drawings depicting western Canada by Sir Henry James Warre. From the website for the British Columbia Archives.
A fascinating online book about the history of legal education in British Columbia. A University of British Columbia website.
An extensively illustrated guide to wildlife species found in British Columbia. Covers bats, birds, beetles, bugs and much more. Also features an insect glossary and notes about invasive species. A biogeographic initiative of the Lab for Advanced Spatial Analysis, Department of Geography, UBC.
BC Stats is the central statistical agency of the Province of British Columbia.
Archaeological Society of British Columbia
The Archaeological Society of British Columbia focuses on identifying and protecting archaeological sites and material in B.C. Also offers lectures and publications for the spread of knowledge about archaeology. Check out the links to the websites for the Nanaimo and Victoria branches.
British Columbia Historical Federation
The website for the British Columbia Historical Federation, an umbrella organization for provincial historical societies. View full issues of "British Columbia History" and "British Columbia Historical News." Note: some large PDF files.
Historic Photos of Canada
The "Historic Photos of Canada" website offers hundreds of high resolution images of Canada’s first 50 years of nationhood, as seen through the lenses of the world’s earliest cameras.
Endangered Species and Ecosystems
This site is a gateway to information about endangered species and ecological communities (ecosystems) in British Columbia.
A profile of John Tod, fur trader for the Hudson’s Bay Company in British Columbia. From the website for BC BookWorld.
Take a virtual tour of the Tod house, the oldest inhabited home in British Columbia. Click on “Home” at the bottom of the page for more information about the life and times of John Tod, a pioneer fur trader and one of British Columbia's founding citizens. From the website "The Pioneer Exploits of Scotch Boy John Tod."
A biography of John Tod, Victoria pioneer and fur trader. From the website for the Royal British Columbia Museum.
Survival of Young Salmon
A brief synopsis of research findings concerning factors that affect survival of young Pacific salmon. From the website for Census of Marine Life.
The British Colonist
A searchable online archive of The British Colonist, a Victoria newspaper. Covers the years 1858 - 1910. A University of Victoria website.
Outdoor Recreation Council of BC
Through research and advocacy, ORC’s mission is to conserve and enhance outdoor settings and resources in British Columbia and secure public access to them for recreation.
A brief bio of Jean Barman, author of several books about the remarkable history of Canada's West Coast province.
Order of British Columbia
The official website for the Order of British Columbia. Check out the online profiles and photos of previous recipients.
Names of the provinces and territories
Abbreviations and symbols for the names of the provinces and territories. From the website for Natural Resources Canada.
BC 150: Splendour without diminishment
The CBC Digital Archives celebrates B.C.'s sesquicentennial with a look at the people and the events that have shaped its history.
British Columbia Sheet Music
Database of digitized copies of sheet music about British Columbia. Searchable by title, composer, subject and lyricist. Includes some sound files. From the University of British Columbia.
Heritage BC Stops
Click on the tabs at the top of the page to access interactive maps and virtual tours of unique heritage sites located throughout British Columbia. Features points of interest, archival illustrations and photographs, personal anecdotes, and much more. From Heritage BC. Note: try various web browsers for the best display of website pages.
BC's Great Wild Spaces
Take a virtual tour of BC's parks and protected areas.
View a detailed interactive map of British Columbia. From the website for Government of British Columbia.
Former B.C. Lt.-Gov. David Lam dies
A CBC News obituary for David C. Lam, Canada's first Asian-Canadian lieutenant-governor.