Oh, my feet are weary on a road that leads to nowhere
And my mind keeps turning backwards evermore
To where misty covered mountains raise their heads into the heavens
And gaze upon that blue Pacific shore
When I get back, I never more will roam
Vancouver, I'm coming home
- Vancouver, Tommy Makem
British Columbia is the westernmost province in the Dominion of Canada. Bordered by the Rocky Mountains in the east, and the Pacific Ocean in the West, it has some of the most beautiful terrain in the country. Running along the Pacific there are a chain of Coastal Mountains. Between the Rockies and these Coastal Mountains is an area of forests, grasslands, and lakes. Quite spectacular.
British Columbia is quite diverse, with a mix of cultures from Europe, mostly British, and Asia, being the natural stop off point for anyone from Asia arriving in Canada.
Politically, British Columbians are known for being fairly liberal. Currently, their provincial government is a Liberal Party majority, having just defeated the even more left wing New Democratic Party, after it was rocked by a series of scandals. However, it doesn't look like the Liberals are doing much better in the scandal department.
Economically, they're not doing as well as they were at one point, but they're doing better than they were in the recent past. The unemployment rate dropped from 9.5% in May 2002, to 8.7% in June. Some of this may be caused by a number of people who have been leaving the province to look for work, going to Alberta or Ontario.
One of the problems seems to be the high tax rate, which have given the province a new nickname, "B.C., Bring Cash." The fact that there's a number of scandals involving the Premiers of the province doesn't exactly do much to inspire businesses to invest their money here.
Still, it's an absolutely beautiful place, and if you don't think you can afford to live there, I highly suggest visiting when you can.
Update, 10 August, 2007:As a new resident of British Columbia, I can assert that, it's not really all that expensive to live, at least here in Victoria. As long as you don't really want to purchase a place to live. Renting is still rather cheapish. It's all good.
Oh, and here's some history and such.
Back in the day, people somehow got to North America from Asia. We're not sure how. Anyways, they settled throughout the continent, including British Columbia. The most well known of these First Nations tribes would be the ones living on the coast, including the Eyak, Tlinget, Haida, and Tsimshian people, the Coast Salish, and the Nookta on Vancouver Island. They built cool Totem Poles, and were excellent fishermen and whalers.
Of course, inland there were other tribes as well, such as the Shuswap Nation and the Okanagan Nation. As seems to be the theme in Canada, a number of geographic locations were named after the First Nations people that first inhabited them. Life was good.
And then the white man came...
The first European to reach the area, in 1592, was the explorer Juan de Fuca, for whom the Strait between Vancouver Island and the Continent is named. Of course, Juan didn't chart it all that well, and he thought that he had reached the Pacific opening to the Northwest Passage, but he still got there first. Well, except for the people who had been living there for thousands of years...
Despite the fact that both Russia and Spain had claimed the area, the British Captain James Cook was the first person to accuratly map the area, back in 1778. Once again, he did a bit of scouting around for the Northwest Passage, and shockingly didn't find it. One of his shipmates, George Vancouver, went back in 1791 and scouted around on the mainland some more, and also negotiated a bit with the Spanish for control of Nootka Sound, on Vancouver Island... I'll let you guess which side eventually won that argument. Eventually a treaty was worked out between the two powers that gave them joint ownership of the island, but soon after Spain's influence in North America started to fade, and the last Spanish ship left the area in 1795.
Fast forward a bit, and we get to the first permanent colony built in the area, Fort St. John 1794, and later the first Hudson's Bay Company trading post at Hudson's Hope 1805, in the north of the province. The first permanent colony on Vancouver Island was established by the Hudson's Bay Company in 1843, originally called Fort Victoria.
Someone then found some gold in the Fraser Valley in 1857, and a bunch of people ran in to get rich. The British Government decided that someone had to keep the peace, so it might as well be them. They established the Colony of British Columbia the next year.
Around the same time, Victoria was booming, as it was the main port in the area, and the natural stopping point for anyone coming up north from California to find gold.
And then, in 1866, the organizational structure of the two colonies was merged into one. At first, New Westminster was chosen as the capital of the united colony, however it was soon moved to Victoria, since Victoria had the largest population, and was the centre of operations for the HBC in the area.
The Dominion of Canada was granted independence from Britain in 1867 by the passage of the British North America Act. Now, they wanted to get British Columbia to join them as well, for fear that they would join the United States of America, and cut off any Canadian link to the Pacific Ocean. To entice them to join, the Federal Government promised the completion of a trans-continental railroad line no later than 1895, linking them to the more densely populated east.
It seemed like a good idea at the time, and British Columbia became the 6th province of Canada in 1871.
In order to help fill a shortage of labour, they imported a great number of Chinese workers, many of whom perished during the construction of the railway, working in unsafe conditions with various explosives.
This influx of workers started a trend of Asian immigrants heading to Canada, landing in British Columbia. To this day the city of Vancouver has the 3rd largest Chinese community in North America.
Speaking of Vancouver, it was founded in 1884, a beautiful harbour at the far end of the Canadian Pacific Railway. When the railway was completed in 1886, the city began booming like you wouldn't believe. It became Canada's port of choice for any shipping to anywhere on the Pacific.
In the meantime, they were developing. After all, the place couldn't just stay all fur trading posts. The first institution of higher learning, Victoria College, which eventually grew into the University of Victoria, was founded in 1903, and the University of British Columbia was founded in 1908.
They also started up some sort of an economy, which was, and still is, heavily based upon exploiting natural resources. The official provincial motto, "Splendour Without Diminishment", plays upon that notion.
The main sector of the economy is the forestry industry, which makes sense considering that vast forests cover over 56% of the Province's area. Leaping from tree to tree! As they float down the mighty rivers of British Columbia! With my best girl by my side!
The next sector of the economy is tourism, which is unsurprising considering the spectacular beauty of the vast majority of the province. 15 million people visit a year, with most of them heading to the Rocky Mountains, and a large number heading to the Coast. They also tend to bring a lot of money with them. Whistler, Vancouver, and Victoria are quite popular.
And then we have is the mining sector, with deposits of coal, copper, gold, zinc, sulphur, and some fossil fuels scattered throughout the Province.
Agriculture and Fishing are fairly important segments of the economy as well, with fruit being grown in the Okanagan Valley, and the Fraser Valley. And of course, the Salmon Fisheries, which thankfully seem to be managed a lot better than the Fisheries off the Grand Banks had been.
And finally, they've also got a bit of an Manufacturing sector, mainly in high-tech areas such as computer components, telecommunication, and the aerospace industry.
So yes, nowadays BC is well known for a fairly liberal populace, including Hippies and the quality of the weed they grow. Gotta love it, eh?
They've got really nice skiing, and most of the place has a simply stunning landscape.
Go there at least once in your life.
Oh yeah, I was born in Kamloops!
A list of the Premiers of British Columbia.
Holy Shit these guys go through a LOT of Premiers. What the hell is wrong with them?!
Strait of Juan de Fuca
Canadian Pacific Railway