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Geography of British Columbia

British Columbia is divided by two of Canada’s seven physiographic regions. These regions are the Cordillera and the Interior Plains. The vast majority of the province is in the Cordillera region, while the northeast corner is part of the Interior Plains. Within the Cordillera region there are many mountain ranges, including the Rocky Mountains and the Coast Mountains. British Columbia’s wet, coastal climate is also home to some of the tallest coniferous trees in Canada, such as the Douglas fir.

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Terry Fox

Terrance Stanley Fox, CC, Order of the Dogwood, athlete, humanitarian, cancer research activist (born 28 July 1958 in WinnipegMB; died 28 June 1981 in New WestminsterBC). After losing his right leg to cancer at age 18, Terry Fox decided to run across Canada to raise awareness and money for cancer research. With the use of a customized running prothesis, he set out from St. John’s, Newfoundland, on 12 April 1980 and covered 5,373 km in 143 days — an average of 42 km (26 miles) per day. He was forced to stop his Marathon of Hope in Thunder Bay, Ontario, on 1 September 1980, when cancer had invaded his lungs. He died shortly before his 23rd birthday. The youngest person to be made a Companion of the Order of Canada, he was awarded the 1980 Lou Marsh Trophy as Canada’s athlete of the year and was named a Person of National Historic Significance by the Government of Canada. He was inducted into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame and has had many schools, institutions and landmarks named in his honour. The annual Terry Fox Run has raised more than $800 million for cancer research. The Marathon of Hope raised $24 million by February 1981.  

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Tsetsaut

The Tsetsaut (also known as the Wetaɬ) were a Dene people who lived inland from the Tlingit (Łingít) along the western coast of British Columbia and Southeastern Alaska. Apart from Nisga’a oral tradition and the linguistic research of anthropologist Franz Boas, who lived among the Tsetsaut in the 1890s, little is known about them. The Tsetsaut were decimated by war and disease in the 1800s, their numbers reduced to just 12 by the end of the century. It was once believed that the last of the Tsetsaut people died in 1927 and that their ancient language was no longer spoken. However, as of 2019, there are approximately 30 people from the Tsetsaut/Skii km Lax Ha Nation identifying as Tsetsaut in British Columbia.

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North Vancouver

North Vancouver, British Columbia, incorporated as a district in 1891, population 85,935 (2016 census), 84,412 (2011 census); also, a separate entity incorporated as a city in 1907, population 52,898 (2016 census), 48,196 (2011 census). The district of North Vancouver and the city of North Vancouver are located in southwestern British Columbia, adjacent to the city of Vancouver. Situated on the north shore of Burrard Inlet, North Vancouver extends from the Capilano River on the west to beyond Deep Cove on the east. The district surrounds the city, which is centered on Lonsdale Avenue, except at the waterfront. Elevations in North Vancouver range from sea level to 1,400 metres. The North Shore mountains — such as Grouse and Seymour — form a scenic backdrop.

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Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion Project

The Trans Mountain Expansion is a project to build about 980 km of new pipe, most of which will run parallel to the existing Trans Mountain oil pipeline. The new line will carry diluted bitumen, or “dilbit,” from Edmonton, Alberta to Burnaby, British Columbia. The expansion will increase the pipeline route’s overall capacity from 300,000 barrels per day to 890,000 barrels per day.

The project’s first owner, Kinder Morgan Canada, sold it to the Government of Canada in 2018. The Trans Mountain Expansion has been a focus of environmental and economic debates, as well as political conflicts. The $12.6 billion project is now under construction.

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Steve Nash

Stephen John Nash, OC, OBC, basketball player (born 7 February 1974 in Johannesburg, South Africa). Steve Nash is widely considered the greatest Canadian basketball player of all time. He is a two-time National Basketball Association (NBA) Most Valuable Player (MVP) and the first Canadian to win the award. A point guard, Nash was an eight-time NBA all-star. He ranks third on the NBA’s all-time assists leaderboard with 10,335 and second in career free-throw percentage with 90.43 per cent. He represented Canada in international competition and led the Canadian Senior Men’s National Team to the quarter-finals of the 2000 Olympic Summer Games. Nash is a three-time winner of the Lionel Conacher Award as Canada’s best male athlete. He won the Lou Marsh Trophy as Canada’s top athlete in 2005. He is an Officer of the Order of Canada and has been inducted into the Order of British Columbia, Canada’s Walk of Fame, the Phoenix Suns Ring of Honour and the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. He was named to Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame on 27 May 2020 and will be formally inducted in 2021. He was named the head coach of the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets on 3 September 2020.

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Martha Salcudean

Martha Eva Salcudean (née Abel), OC, OBC, professor of mechanical engineering (born 26 February 1934 in Cluj, Romania; died 17 July 2019 in British Columbia). Salcudean was a leading authority on computational fluid dynamics and heat transfer. In 1985, she was named chair of the department of mechanical engineering at the University of British Columbia. This made her the first female head of a Canadian university’s engineering department. Salcudean dedicated much of her academic career to forging research and development partnerships. She fostered collaboration between universities, government agencies and industry groups in sectors such as mining, pulp and paper and aeronautics.

timeline event

BC First Nations Push for Vancouver Island-Size Conservation Area

Several First Nations called on the British Columbia government to endorse plans for a 40,000 km2 conservation area, which would be located on the ancestral lands of three Kaska Dena First Nations in Northern BC. The proposal for the Kaska Indigenous Protected and Conserved Area, which would cover an area larger than Vancouver Island, has been in the works for more than two decades. The First Nations have applied for $4 million in federal funding for the project but must first obtain provincial approval.

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Gordon A. Smith

Gordon Appelbe Smith, CM, OBC, painter, printmaker, teacher, philanthropist (born 18 June 1919 in East Brighton, England; died 18 January 2020 in West Vancouver, BC). Gordon Smith was a key figure in Vancouver’s art scene during the latter half of the 20th century. He was best known for his monumental, modernist abstractions of the West Coast landscape, and for his long and influential career as a teacher and philanthropist. He was made a Member of the Order of Canada for making “a major contribution to the development of the fine arts in Canada.” He also received the Order of British Columbia, the Audain Prize for Lifetime Achievement in the Visual Arts, and the Governor General's Award in Visual and Media Arts.

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Fraser River Gold Rush

In 1858, around 30,000 gold seekers flooded the banks of the Fraser River from Hope to just north of Lillooet in British Columbia’s first significant gold rush. Although it dissipated by the mid-1860s, the Fraser River Gold Rush had a significant impact on the area’s Indigenous peoples and resulted in the Fraser Canyon War. Fears that the massive influx of American miners would lead the United States to annex the non-sovereign British territory known as New Caledonia also resulted in the founding of British Columbia as a colony on 2 August 1858 (see The Fraser River Gold Rush and the Founding of British Columbia). By the mid-1860s, the Fraser Rush collapsed, and British Columbia sank into a recession.

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Bonnie Henry

Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer of British Columbia (2018 to present), epidemiologist, physician (born 1965 in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island). Dr. Bonnie Henry is best known for leading British Columbia’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. She has also worked to eradicate polio and to contain Ebola and SARS. Henry is a family care physician and a specialist in preventative medicine. She is the first woman to serve as BC’s provincial health officer.

Click here for definitions of key terms used in this article.

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British Columbia and Confederation

The colony of British Columbia was founded in 1858 in response to the Fraser River Gold Rush. (See also The Fraser River Gold Rush and the Founding of British Columbia.) The colony established representative government in 1864 and merged with the colony of Vancouver Island in 1866. In May 1868, Amor De Cosmos formed the Confederation League to bring responsible government to BC and to join Confederation. In September 1868, the Confederation League passed 37 resolutions outlining the terms for a union with the Dominion of Canada. The terms were passed by both the BC assembly and the federal Parliament in 1871. The colony joined Canada as the country’s sixth province on 20 July 1871. The threat of American annexation, embodied by the Alaska purchase of 1867, and the promise of a railway linking BC to the rest of Canada, were decisive factors.

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Gold Rushes

Gold rushes occurred in the mid- to late-19th century, primarily along North America’s West Coast from California to Alaska. In Canada, key events included the Fraser RiverCariboo and Klondike gold rushes, as well as the Fraser Canyon War and the founding of British Columbia as a colony in 1858. The worldwide production of gold tripled between 1848 and 1898, though this had relatively little impact on the Canadian economy. The gold rushes opened large territories to permanent resource exploitation and settlement by White people. They also resulted in the displacement and marginalization of many of the Indigenous communities in the region (see also Northwest Coast Indigenous Peoples; Central Coast Salish).

Editorial

The Fraser River Gold Rush and the Founding of British Columbia

The year 1858 is the single most important year in British Columbia’s history. It was on 2 August of that year that an imperial act established the mainland colony of BC under the authority of Governor James Douglas. Beginning that spring, the Fraser River Gold Rush unleashed a chain of events that culminated a dozen years later in British Columbia joining the new Canadian Confederation (see British Columbia and Confederation). Without 1858, it is very possible there would have been no British Columbia, but rather an American state. Without 1858, Canada today might not extend from the Atlantic to the Pacific.

timeline event

Resources for BC Killers’ Manhunt Should be Available for MMIWG Cases, Advocates Say

As the hunt for two teens suspected of murdering three tourists in BC intensified, Indigenous rights advocates openly questioned why such extensive resources are not utilized in cases of murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls. In response to the killing of three tourists in Northern BC, which drew international attention, the RCMP coordinated a search that involved different police forces and the Canadian Armed Forces. Armoured vehicles, drones, K9 units, all-terrain vehicles, boats and military and civilian aircraft were utilized. “It is a little bit eyebrow-raising because of the different response,” said Sheila North, a former grand chief. “Families that do their own searches are feeling a little bit let down and not respected in the same way as these other families are.”  

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Seven Years’ War (Plain-Language Summary)

The Seven Years’ War (1756–63) was the first global war. In North America, Britain and France fought each other with the help of Indigenous allies. At the end of the war, France gave Canada (Quebec) and Ile Royale (Cape Breton) to Britain, among other territories. This is the reason that Canada has a British monarch but three founding peoples — French, British and Indigenous.

(This article is a plain-language summary of the Seven Years’ War. If you are interested in reading about this topic in more depth, please see our full-length entry Seven Years’ War.)

Editorial

Editorial: The Statute of Westminster, Canada's Declaration of Independence

In the fall of 1929, Canada’s Minister of Justice, Ernest Lapointe, travelled to England. He took with him Dr. Oscar Skelton — the “elder statesman” of the Canadian civil service, as William Lyon Mackenzie Kingonce described him. When Lapointe and Skelton were done their negotiations, they had confirmed that Canada would have its independence from the British Empire.

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Fraser Canyon War

The Fraser Canyon War (a.k.a. the “Fraser River War” and the “miners’ war”) was a war waged by mainly white American gold miners against the Nlaka’pamux Indigenous people of the Fraser Canyon in the summer of 1858. The war began when the miners, arriving as part of the Fraser River Gold Rush in June 1858, perceived scattered Nlaka’pamux attacks in defense of their territories as a coordinated effort to drive them by force from their claims. Driven by a hunger for gold and a sense of entitlement to Indigenous peoples’ territories and resources, American miners formed military companies and carried out violent attacks on Nlaka’pamux communities. The war ended on 21 August 1858, when the Nlaka’pamux and miners called a truce. Under threat of further violence, the Nlaka’pamux agreed to grant miners access to their territories and resources, bringing the immediate conflict to a close. The conflict bears resemblance to the Chilcotin War of 1864, another Indigenous-newcomer conflict in the colonial history of British Columbia.