British Columbia (fr: Colombie-Britannique) is the westernmost province in Canada. It was originally two separate colonies of Great Britain, the colony of Vancouver Island, and the colony of British Columbia. British Columbia joined the Canadian Confederation on July 20, The capital of British Columbia is Victoria. The largest city is Vancouver.
Early History [change]
Prior to European contact, British Columbia was home to large numbers of indigenous peoples. These people, for the large part, still remain in the province. Because BC has a substantial amount of resources, the native people who dwelled here lived comfortably enough. The abundance of resources, in particular, resulted in the creation of highly complex hierarchical societies in British Columbia, well preceding the government of the Europeans.
Oregon Dispute [change]
See Also Fort Vancouver, Oregon
The Oregon Dispute was an important factor in determining the physical shape of British Columbia, and as the political impetus for British investment in protecting her lands in British Columbia. During the middle of the 19th century, the Democratic Party of the United States, appealing to the public attraction to the Manifest Destiny (a philosophy preaching American Supremacy and expansionism), declared that the United States had a claim over the entirety of Columbia District/Oregon Territory. This attitude was reflected even further, as 54*-40' or fight, referring to the end of Columbia District, and the start of Russian Territory of Alaska. This alarming attitude, caused many in London to fear that yet another war, in less than a century, was brewing. Ultimately, however, it was resolved, at the 49th parallel. British Columbia lost Fort Vancouver (now Vancouver, Washington), and lots of the gulf islands. To this day, the Oregon Treaty is criticized by historians, as being too lenient for the Americans.
Hudson's Bay Corporation [change]
While British Columbia was technically a British colony, it was the private corporation, the Hudson's Bay Company that really ran the place. The first Governor of Vancouver Island (then a separate colony), actually resigned over the fact that the Queen, had no say, above the interests of the Colony. After him, the next governor of the Island, was also, coincidentally, the head of the HBC's operations in British Columbia and Vancouver Island.
Gold Rush [change]
The first major gold rush in British Columbia started in 1858, after gold was discovered, on the upper reaches of the Fraser River. The sudden onslaught of uncouth Americans, lead to the declaration that British Columbia shall be a crown colony, instead of the unincorporated region it was, after the Oregon spat. James Douglas was appointed the governor of the newly formed colony, as well as the Colony of Vancouver Island, and for military convenience, the Capital of British Columbia was declared Queensboro, then renamed New Westminster. As massive amounts of Americans came, fears that the Americans would try to bluster themselves another chunk of territory became more and more concrete. Thus, a contingent of Royal Engineers and Marines were deployed to New Westminster. To this day, the neighbourhood of Sapperton, is known, for its history as a site of the barracks for the Engineers, nicknamed the Sappers.
Subsequent Debt [change]
The infrastructure ordered by James Douglas, to support the vast amount of capital flowing from the gold industry, caused an incredible amount of debt for British Columbia. By 1864, British Columbia was £200,000 in debt, plus an additional £18,000, from various spats with natives, and constant policing required to maintain law and order. Even though BC had a vast amount of gold, that was useless, while BC was in debt. Ultimately, it was decided, that British Columbia would amalgamate with Vancouver Island, forming one super-colony. Vancouver Island would undertake the debt, and British Columbia's capital would be in Victoria.
Confederation With Canada [change]
British Columbia at the middle of the 19th century, had 3 options: Remain a colony of Britain, Annex with the United States, or join the Dominion of Canada. The option of remaining a colony was undesirable, for Britain had long adopted a policy of "the little Briton", where the key to economic efficiency, and reduction of bloat was to cut off connections to its various colonies. The option of joining with Canada was also viewed as impractical, and unlikely to occur; the closest Canadian neighbour lay more than a thousand kilometers away, to the east. For most of the British Columbians, annexation with the United States seemed most logical. In fact, the only people who opposed this, was a set of quacks, including Amor De Cosmos, the owner of the discredited paper, The Colonist, Robert Beaven, a crackpot politician, and John Robson, the most creditable politician of them all. Ultimately, however, British Columbia did confederate. The advocacy of the Confederation League, resulted in British Columbian's demanding that BC join Canada. On July 20, 1871, British Columbia joined Canada. In return, BC was absolved of it's debt, which became Canada's responsibility, and Canada promised to build a railway to BC within 10 years.
British Columbia's industry is primarily, and has always been, resource centered. For large parts of it's history, including the entire time it was a colony, BC was dominated by the big 4: Forestry, Mining, Logging, and Agriculture, which have shaped British Columbia's culture, and society.
Forestry in British Columbia [change]
British Columbia's forestry industry has always been booming. BC had a bonanza of massive trees, thanks to it's location in the Pacific Rainforest region. This provided ample opportunity for entrepreneurs to build businesses. Massive sawmills sprung up, all over British Columbia, especially in what is now Vancouver and surrounding regions. However, this required massive amounts of human capital - which was surprisingly in short supply. To overcome this, massive amounts of immigrants were invited to Vancouver, and places like so. This changed BC's demographic makeup so much, that to try to stop it, the government passed several acts, to try and limit the amount of immigrants. However, the change was already underway - BC subsequently became one of the most diverse places on North America, with people calling it home, from places like Asia, Europe, and even the Pacific Islands.
Mining in British Columbia [change]
British Columbia's large mineral resources also lead to a large mining industry. For the most of the 19th century, and well into the 20th century, mining was highly profitable. For the immigrants, once again, this was another opportunity to exploit. Large numbers of immigrants, skilled from their experience mining at home, filled up the labour demands, and quickly, new towns were formed. The city of Nanaimo, for instance, was founded thanks to a large amount of coal found in it's harbour. Coal especially, was the fuel of the industry, as Coal was required for everything it the time, from ships, to trains, to the heater in everyone's homes.
Fishing in British Columbia [change]
Thanks to BC's location on the coast, Fishing has been very prevalent in British Columbia. Before agriculture had developed very far in BC, and well before farming fish was even a viable option, fishing was the only reliable way to get food. The native people of BC already had a very active fishing industry, with large hauls of salmon, and other creatures sustaining them. When civilization came, the fishing industry took off, as everybody needed to eat, and there was not enough agricultural goods to go around. In fishing, once again, it was the immigrants that pulled it off. Mostly Japanese workers, and their families, came. Using their rich heritage of industrialized fishing, they were able to out compete every other fisherman, that by the turn of the century, the dockyards, canneries, and fishing fleets were filled to the brim with the Japanese. Only the forced Japanese internment in WW2 put a halt to the monopoly the Japanese had on Fishing in British Columbia. Today, fishing is still a powerful force, although fettered by ordinances to prevent overfishing.
Agriculture in British Columbia [change]
The agriculture industry in BC is, and always has been humble. However, as they say, good things come in small packages, and the agricultural goods of BC, are about as good as they come. Due to the fact that BC has only about 2% arable land, the remainder being too dry, or too cold, or too remote, or a plethora of other reasons, BC has never been able to sustain a primary food agricultural industry. Even today, BC cannot grow enough food to feed it's entire population, and imports foods instead, from the eastern provinces, such as Alberta, and Saskatchewan. However, where BC does grow food, the food is scrumptious, and award-winning. The Okanagan valley, is known for it's award winning fruits, and wine-related products. However, that is not where all the food is produced. In the Fraser valley delta, large amounts of other food crops are grown, such as wheat, and berries.
British Columbia is generally considered very liberal. It's premier is Christy Clark, leader of the Liberal Party. The provincial NDP is also very active in British Columbia, as well as recently, the Conservative Party, lead by John Cumins.
Other websites [change]
- Official government website
- Map of British Columbia
- The Political Economy of British Columbia's Rainforests
- A history of British Columbia, in pictures