British Columbia /ˌbrɪtɪʃ kəˈlʌmbiə/, also commonly referred to by its initials BC or B.C., (French: Colombie-Britannique, C.-B.) is the westernmost province of Canada. In 1871, it became the sixth province of Canada. British Columbia is also a component of the Pacific Northwest, along with the U.S. states of Oregon and Washington. The province's name was chosen by Queen Victoria in 1858, reflecting its origins as the British remainder of the Columbia District of the Hudson's Bay Company. Its Latin motto is Splendor sine occasu ("Splendour without Diminishment").
The capital of British Columbia is Victoria, the 15th largest metropolitan region in Canada, named for the Queen that created the Colony of British Columbia. The largest city is Vancouver, the third-largest metropolitan area in Canada, the largest in Western Canada, and the second largest in the Pacific Northwest. In 2012, British Columbia had an estimated population of 4,622,573 (about two and a half million of whom were in Greater Vancouver). The province is currently governed by the BC Liberal Party, led by Premier Christy Clark, who became leader as a result of the party election on February 26, 2011 and who led her party to an election victory on May 14, 2013.
British Columbia's economy is largely resource-based. It is the endpoint of transcontinental railways and the site of major Pacific ports, which enable international trade. Though less than five percent of its vast 944,735 km2 (364,764 sq mi) land is arable, the province is agriculturally rich (particularly in the Fraser and Okanagan Valleys) because of its mild weather. Its climate encourages outdoor recreation and tourism, though its economic mainstay has long been resource extraction, principally logging and mining. Vancouver, the province's largest city and metropolitan area, also serves as the headquarters of many of the Western-based natural resource companies. It also benefits from a strong housing market, which has emerged as a result of the high standard of living, pristine environment and a per-capita income well above the national average. While the coast of BC and certain valleys in the south-central part of the province have mild weather, the majority of BC's land mass experiences a cold winter temperate climate similar to the rest of Canada. The Northeast corner of BC has a Subarctic climate with very cold winters.
The province's name was chosen by Queen Victoria when the Colony of British Columbia, i.e. "the Mainland", became a British colony in 1858. It refers to the Columbia District, the British name for the territory drained by the Columbia River, in southeastern British Columbia, which was the namesake of the pre-Oregon Treaty Columbia Department of the Hudson's Bay Company. Queen Victoria chose British Columbia to distinguish what was the British sector of the Columbia District from that of the United States ("American Columbia" or "Southern Columbia"), which became the Oregon Territory in 1848 as a result of the treaty.
British Columbia's geography is epitomized by the variety and intensity of its physical relief, which has defined patterns of settlement and industry since colonization.
British Columbia is bordered by the Pacific Ocean on the west side, by the U.S. state of Alaska on the northwest as well as parts of the west, on the north by Yukon and the Northwest Territories, on the east by the province of Alberta, and on the south by the U.S. states of Washington, Idaho, and Montana. The current southern border of British Columbia was established by the 1846 Oregon Treaty, although its history is tied with lands as far south as California. British Columbia's land area is 944,735 square kilometres (364,800 sq mi). British Columbia's rugged coastline stretches for more than 27,000 kilometres (17,000 mi), and includes deep, mountainous fjords and about six thousand islands, most of which are uninhabited.
British Columbia's capital is Victoria, located at the southeastern tip of Vancouver Island. The province's most populous city is Vancouver, which is not on Vancouver Island but rather is located in the southwest corner of the mainland (an area often called the Lower Mainland). By area, Abbotsford is the largest city. Vanderhoof is near the geographic centre of the province.
The Coast Mountains and the Inside Passage's many inlets provide some of British Columbia's renowned and spectacular scenery, which forms the backdrop and context for a growing outdoor adventure and ecotourism industry. Seventy-five percent of the province is mountainous (more than 1,000 metres (3,300 ft) above sea level); 60% is forested; and only about 5% is arable.
Much of the western part of Vancouver Island and the rest of the coast are covered by temperate rainforest. The province's mainland away from the coastal regions is not as moderated by the Pacific Ocean and ranges from desert and semi-arid plateau to the range and canyon districts of the Central and Southern Interior to boreal forest and sub-arctic prairie in the Northern Interior.
A few Southern Interior valleys have short cold winters with infrequent heavy snow, while those in the Cariboo, the southern part of the Central Interior, are colder because of their altitude and latitude, but without the intensity or duration experienced at similar latitudes elsewhere in Canada. The northern two-thirds of the province is largely unpopulated and undeveloped, and is mostly mountainous except east of the Rockies, where the Peace River District, in the northeast of the province contains BC's portion of the Canadian Prairies.
As a result of Kuroshio Current (also known as the Japan Current), which crosses the North Pacific Ocean, coastal British Columbia has a mild, rainy oceanic climate. The climate due to the blocking presence of successive mountain ranges, the Interior of the province has a semi-arid climate with certain locations receiving less than 250 mm (10") in annual precipitation. The annual mean temperatures in the most populated areas of the province are above 10 °C (50 °F), the mildest anywhere in Canada.
Winters can be severe in the Interior and the North. For example, the average overnight low in Prince George (roughly located in the middle of the province) in January is −14 °C (7 °F). The coldest temperature in British Columbia was recorded in Smith River, where it dropped to −58.9 °C (−74 °F), one of the coldest readings recorded anywhere in North America. Southern Interior valleys have shorter winters with brief bouts of cold. Heavy snowfall occurs in the Coast, Columbia and Rocky Mountains providing healthy bases for skiers.
On the Coast, rainfall, sometimes relentless heavy rain, dominates in winter because of consistent barrages of cyclonic low-pressure systems from the North Pacific, but on occasion (and not every winter) heavy snowfalls and below freezing temperatures arrive when modified arctic air reaches coastal areas, typically for short periods. On the opposite extreme, summers in the Southern Interior valleys are hot; for example in Osoyoos the July Maximum averages 31.7 °C (89 °F), hot weather sometimes moves towards the Coast or to the far north of the province. Temperatures exceed 40 °C (104 °F) in the lower elevations of interior valleys during mid-summer, with the record high of 44.4 °C (111.9 °F) being held in Lytton on July 16, 1941.
The extended summer dryness often creates conditions that spark forest fires, from dry-lightning or man-made causes. Coastal areas are generally milder and dry during summer, under the influence of stable anti-cyclonic high pressure much of the time. Many areas of the province are often covered by a blanket of heavy cloud and low fog during winter, despite sunny summers. Annual sunshine hours vary from 2200 near Cranbrook and Victoria to less than 1300 in Prince Rupert, located on the North Coast, just south of the Alaska Panhandle.
The exception to British Columbia's wet and cloudy winters is El Niño. During this phase, the jet stream is much further south across North America; therefore winters are milder and drier than normal. Winters are much wetter and cooler under the opposite phase, La Niña.
Parks and protected areas
There are 14 designations of parks and protected areas in the province that reflects the different administration and creation of these areas in a modern context. There are 141 ecological Reserves, 35 provincial marine parks, 7 Provincial Heritage Sites, 6 National Historic Sites of Canada, 4 National Parks and 3 National Park Reserves. 12.5% (114,000 km2 (44,000 sq mi)) of British Columbia is currently considered protected under one of the 14 different designations that include over 800 distinct areas.
British Columbia contains seven of Canada's national parks.
British Columbia also contains a large network of provincial parks, run by BC Parks of the Ministry of Environment. British Columbia's provincial parks system is the second largest parks system in Canada (the largest is Canada's National Parks system).
Another tier of parks in British Columbia are regional parks, which are maintained and run by regional districts.
In addition to these areas, over 47,000 km2 (18,000 sq mi) of arable land are protected by the Agricultural Land Reserve.
Much of the province is wild or semi-wild, so that populations of many mammalian species that have become rare in much of the United States still flourish in British Columbia. Watching animals of various sorts, including a very wide range of birds, has also long been popular. Bears (grizzly, black, and the Kermode bear or spirit bear—found only in British Columbia) live here, as do deer, elk, moose, caribou, big-horn sheep, mountain goats, marmots, beavers, muskrat, coyotes, wolves, mustelids (such as wolverines, badgers and fishers), cougar, eagles, ospreys, herons, Canada geese, swans, loons, hawks, owls, ravens, Harlequin Ducks, and many other sorts of ducks. Smaller birds (robins, jays, grosbeaks, chickadees, and so on) also abound.
Healthy populations of many sorts of fish are found in the waters (including salmonids such as several species of salmon, trout, char, and so on.). Besides salmon and trout, sport-fishers in BC also catch halibut, steelhead, bass, and sturgeon. On the coastlines, Harbor Seals and river otters are common. Cetacean species native to the coast include the Orca, Gray Whale, Harbour Porpoise, Dall's Porpoise, Pacific White-sided Dolphin and Minke Whale.
British Columbian introduced species include: common dandelion, ring-necked pheasant, Pacific oyster, brown trout, black slug, European Starling, cowbird, knapweed, bullfrog, purple loosestrife, Scotch broom, Himalayan blackberry, European earwig, tent caterpillar, sowbug, gray squirrel, Asian longhorn beetle, English ivy, Fallow Deer, thistle, gorse, Norway rat, crested mynah, and Asian or European gypsy moth.
Fur trade and colonial era
The discovery of stone tools on the Beatton River near Fort St. John date human habitation in British Columbia to at least 11,500 years ago. The Indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest Coast spread throughout the region, achieving a high population density; at the time of European contact, nearly half the aboriginal people in present-day Canada lived in the region. During the 1770s, smallpox killed at least 30% of the Pacific Northwest First Nations. This epidemic was the first and the most devastating of a number that were to follow, other than the Great Smallpox Epidemic of 1862 which killed off 50% of the native population in that year.
Rapid growth and development
The Confederation League, including such figures as Amor De Cosmos, John Robson, and Robert Beaven, led the chorus pressing for the colony to join Canada, which had been created out of three British North American colonies in 1867 (the Province of Canada, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick). Several factors motivated this agitation, including the fear of annexation to the United States, the overwhelming debt created by rapid population growth, the need for government-funded services to support this population, and the economic depression caused by the end of the gold rush.
Population in British Columbia continued to expand as the province's mining, forestry, agriculture, and fishing sectors were developed. Mining activity was particularly notable throughout the Mainland, particularly in the Boundary Country, in the Slocan, in the West Kootenay around Trail, the East Kootenay (the southeast corner of the province), the Fraser Canyon, the Cariboo, the Omineca and the Cassiar, so much so a common epithet for the Mainland, even after provincehood, was "the Gold Colony". Agriculture attracted settlers to the fertile Fraser Valley, and cattle ranchers and later fruit growers came to the drier grasslands of the Thompson River area, the Cariboo, the Chilcotin, and the Okanagan. Forestry drew workers to the lush temperate rainforests of the coast, which was also the locus of a growing fishery.
Meanwhile, the province continued to grow. In 1914, the last spike of a second transcontinental rail line, the Grand Trunk Pacific, linking north-central British Columbia from the Yellowhead Pass through Prince George to Prince Rupert was driven at Fort Fraser. This opened up the North Coast and the Bulkley Valley region to new economic opportunities. What had previously been an almost exclusively fur trade and subsistence economy soon became a locus for forestry, farming, and mining.
1990s to present
Johnston lost the 1991 general election to the NDP, under the leadership of Mike Harcourt, a former mayor of Vancouver. The NDP's unprecedented creation of new parkland and protected areas was popular, and helped boost the province's growing tourism sector. However, the economy continued to struggle against the backdrop of a weak resource economy. Housing starts and an expanded service sector saw growth overall through the decade, despite political turmoil. Harcourt ended up resigning over "Bingogate"—a political scandal involving the funnelling of charity bingo receipts into party coffers in certain ridings. Harcourt was not implicated, but he resigned nonetheless in respect of constitutional conventions calling for leaders under suspicion to step aside. Glen Clark, a former president of the BC Federation of Labour, was chosen the new leader of the NDP, which won a second term in 1996. More scandals dogged the party, most notably the Fast Ferry Scandal involving the province trying to develop the shipbuilding industry in British Columbia. An allegation (never substantiated) that the Premier had received a favour in return for granting a gaming license led to Clark's resignation as Premier. He was succeeded on an interim basis by Dan Miller who was in turn followed by Ujjal Dosanjh following a leadership convention.
In the 2001 general election Gordon Campbell's BC Liberals defeated the NDP, gaining 77 out of 79 seats total seats in the provincial legislature. Campbell instituted various reforms and removed some of the NDP's policies including scrapping the "fast ferries" project, lowering income taxes, and the controversial sale of BC Rail to CN Rail. Campbell was also the subject of criticism after he was arrested for driving under the influence during a vacation in Hawaii. However, Campbell still managed to lead his party to victory in the 2005 general election, against a substantially strengthened NDP opposition. Campbell won a third term in the British Columbia general election, 2009, marking the first time in 23 years that a premier has been elected to a third term.
The province won a bid to host the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver and Whistler. As promised in his 2002 re-election campaign, Vancouver Mayor Larry Campbell staged a non-binding civic referendum regarding the hosting of the Olympics. In February 2003, Vancouver's residents voted in a referendum accepting the responsibilities of the host city should it win its bid. Sixty-four percent of residents voted in favour of hosting the games.
British Columbia has also been significantly affected by demographic changes within Canada and around the world. Vancouver (and to a lesser extent some other parts of British Columbia) was a major destination for many of the immigrants from Hong Kong who left the former UK colony (either temporarily or permanently) in the years immediately prior to its handover to the People's Republic of China. British Columbia has also been a significant destination for internal Canadian migrants. This has been the case throughout recent decades, because of its image of natural beauty, mild climate and relaxed lifestyle, but is particularly true during periods of economic growth. As a result, British Columbia has moved from approximately 10% of Canada's population in 1971 to approximately 13% in 2006. Trends of urbanization mean that the Greater Vancouver area now includes 51% of the Province's population, followed in second place by Greater Victoria with 8%. These two metropolitan regions have traditionally dominated the demographics of BC.
The largest denominations by number of adherents according to the 2001 census were none (atheist, agnostic, and so on.) with 1,388,300 (35.9%); Protestant with 1,213,295 (31.4%); the Roman Catholic Church with 675,320 (17%); the United Church of Canada with 361,840 (9%); and the Anglican Church of Canada with 298,375 (8%).
Ethnic groups and languages
The following statistics represent both single (for example, "German") and multiple (for example, "Chinese-Canadian") responses to the 2006 Census, and thus do not add up to 100%. All items are self-identified.
Of the provinces, British Columbia had the highest proportion of visible minorities, representing 24.8% of its population.
Asians at 20.2% of the total population are by far the largest visible minority demographic, with many of the Lower Mainland's large cities having sizable Chinese, South Asian, Japanese, Filipino, and Korean communities.
Also present in large numbers relative to other regions of Canada (except Toronto), and ever since the province was first settled (unlike Toronto), are many European ethnicities of the first and second generation, notably Germans, Scandinavians, Yugoslavs and Italians. Third-generation Europeans are generally of mixed lineage, and traditionally intermarried with other ethnic groups more than in any other Canadian province. First-generation Britons remain a strong component of local society despite limitations on immigration from Britain since the ending of special status for British subjects in the 1960s.
Of the 4,113,847 population counted by the 2006 census, 4,074,385 people completed the section about language. Of these 4,022,045 gave singular responses to the question regarding mother tongue. The languages most commonly reported were the following:
Numerous other languages were also counted, but only languages with more than 2,000 native speakers are shown.Figures shown are for the number of single language responses and the percentage of total single-language responses.
Half of all British Columbians live in the Metro Vancouver area, which includes Vancouver, Surrey, New Westminster, West Vancouver, North Vancouver (city), North Vancouver (district municipality), Burnaby, Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam, Maple Ridge, Langley (city), Langley (district municipality), Delta, Pitt Meadows, White Rock, Richmond, Port Moody, Anmore, Belcarra, Lions Bay and Bowen Island, with adjacent unincorporated areas represented in the regional district as the electoral area known as Greater Vancouver Electoral Area A. Seventeen Indian reserves are located in the metropolitan area but are outside the jurisdiction of the regional district and not represented in its government. Also in the metropolitan area but not represented in the regional district are the University Endowment Lands.
The second largest concentration of British Columbia population is located at the southern tip of Vancouver Island, which is made up of the 13 municipalities of Greater Victoria, Victoria, Saanich, Esquimalt, Oak Bay, View Royal, Highlands, Colwood, Langford, Central Saanich/Saanichton, North Saanich, Sidney, Metchosin, Sooke, which are part of the Capital Regional District. The metropolitan area also includes several Indian reserves (the governments of which are not part of the regional district). Almost half of the Vancouver Island population is located in Greater Victoria.
British Columbia has a resource dominated economy, centred on the forestry industry but also with increasing importance in mining. Employment in the resource sector has fallen steadily, and new jobs are mostly in the construction and retail/service sectors. With its film industry known as Hollywood North, the Vancouver region is the third-largest feature film production location in North America, after Los Angeles and New York City.
The economic history of British Columbia is replete with tales of dramatic upswings and downswings, and this boom and bust pattern has influenced the politics, culture and business climate of the province. Economic activity related to mining in particular has widely fluctuated with changes in commodity prices over time, with documented costs to community health.
British Columbia's GDP is the fourth largest in Canada at C$197.93 billion in 2008. GDP per capita stands at C$45,150.
British Columbia’s total debt will rise 16% to C$47.8 billion in the 2010-11 fiscal year, or 24.3% of GDP.
British Columbia was the second Canadian jurisdiction (after Ontario) to legalize same-sex marriage
Given its varied mountainous terrain and its coasts, lakes, rivers, and forests, British Columbia has long been enjoyed for pursuits like hiking and camping, rock climbing and mountaineering, hunting and fishing.
Water sports, both motorized and non-motorized, are enjoyed in many places. Sea kayaking opportunities abound on the British Columbia coast with its fjords. Whitewater rafting and kayaking are popular on many inland rivers. Sailing and sailboarding are widely enjoyed.
In winter, cross-country and telemark skiing are much enjoyed, and in recent decades high-quality downhill skiing has been developed in the Coast Mountain range and the Rockies, as well as in the southern areas of the Shuswap Highlands and the Columbia Mountains. Snowboarding has mushroomed in popularity since the early 1990s. The 2010 Winter Olympics downhill events were held in Whistler Blackcomb area of the province, while the indoor events were conducted in the Vancouver area.
In Vancouver and Victoria (as well as some other cities), opportunities for joggers and bicyclists have been developed. Cross-country bike touring has been popular since the ten-speed bike became available many years ago. Since the advent of the more robust mountain bike, trails in more rugged and wild places have been developed for them. Some of the province's retired rail beds have been converted and maintained for hiking, biking, and cross-country skiing. Longboarding is also a popular activity because of the hilly geography of the region.
Horseback riding is enjoyed by many British Columbians. Opportunities for trail riding, often into especially scenic areas, have been established for tourists in numerous areas of the province.
British Columbia also has strong participation levels in many other sports, including golf, tennis, soccer, hockey, Canadian football, rugby union, lacrosse, baseball, softball, basketball, curling and figure skating. British Columbia has produced many outstanding athletes, especially in aquatic and winter sports.
Consistent with both increased tourism and increased participation in diverse recreations by British Columbians has been the proliferation of lodges, chalets, bed and breakfasts, motels, hotels, fishing camps, and park-camping facilities in recent decades.
In certain areas, there are businesses, non-profit societies, or municipal governments dedicated to promoting ecotourism in their region. A number of British Columbia farmers offer visitors to combine tourism with farm work, for example, through the WWOOF Canada program.