Richmond | The Canadian Encyclopedia



Richmond, British Columbia, incorporated as a city in 1990, population 209,937 (2021 census), 198,309 (2016 census). The City of Richmond is located adjacent to and south of Vancouver and west of New Westminster. The city comprises Sea Island, most of Lulu Island and 12 smaller islands in the delta of the Fraser River. Due to its culturally diverse populace, the city provides many services in different languages. Vancouver International Airport is located in Richmond.


The area's first inhabitants were Coast Salish, though they mainly visited the islands on fishing trips. In 1861, Colonel Richard C. Moody surveyed southern British Columbia and selected townsites on the Fraser River; he named Sea and Lulu islands, the latter after an American actress called Lulu Sweet. Hugh McRoberts became the first settler in 1862, purchasing 648 hectares on Sea Island. He called his farm Richmond View after his former home in Australia – perhaps the origin of the present name.

A slow but steady migration of farmers to the islands began and by 1879, the area had 30 families. In that same year, these settlers successfully petitioned for the islands to be incorporated as a district municipality. Also during this period, the port of Steveston developed to take advantage of salmon at the mouth of the Fraser River. At one time it boasted 49 canneries. The fishing and canning industry attracted Japanese immigrants, who began arriving in the late 1880s. By the 1920s, there was a large Japanese population in Steveston, which is still one of the largest Canadian centres of Japanese culture.

The first bridge connecting Richmond with the mainland was built in 1889; by 1902, a railway link existed. Vancouver International Airport was built on Sea Island in 1931. It is now Canada's second busiest airport.

Between 1971 and 1991 Richmond's population doubled, due in part to increased immigration from Hong Kong and China. There was also significant immigration from the Philippines and Taiwan. Because of its population growth, Richmond obtained civic status in 1990.

Present Day

In its early years, Richmond's agriculture and fishing made it Vancouver's "breadbasket." Fish is still processed in Steveston and Richmond's rich alluvial farmlands continue to be productive, but the city has become increasingly residential. Today, most residents are employed in small businesses and the retail sector, although there is a strong light manufacturing sector and high technology and communications manufacturing has increased in importance. Tourism is also significant because of the airport and the city's proximity to the US border.

According to the 2021 census, approximately 60 per cent of the residents of Richmond are immigrants. Nearly 14,000 immigrants arrived in Richmond between 2016 and 2021, more than half of whom emigrated from China. There was also significant immigration from the Philippines, India and Hong Kong in those years.

Cultural Sites

Two national historic sites, Britannia Shipyard (designated 1991) and Gulf of Georgia Cannery (designated 1976); London Heritage Farm; and Steveston, the site of a large Japanese population before the Second World War, are important heritage resources. The most popular landmark, the Minoru Chapel, is in the heart of Richmond. Part of Minoru Park, it was built in 1890 and restored in 1968 as a historic site. To the north of the park is the Gateway Theatre, which holds plays, musicals and lectures. The Richmond Library and Cultural Centre opened in 1992 and includes an art gallery, archives, museum and library. The Steveston Salmon Festival is held on July 1.

Further Reading

External Links