The Creation Of British Columbia

By Sarah Kushneryk, block 5

The Colony of British Columbia

In 1866, there was an uncertainty in the air following the Cariboo gold rush. The two western colonies, Vancouver Island and British Columbia, had not yet pledged allegiance to either the United States or the new country of Canada. Having separate colonial administrations had become too much of a burden financially for both in the wake of the gold rush, and a recession had begun to take hold. During the uncertain economic times, they made the decision to join together under the name of British Columbia. Victoria was chosen as the province's capital because it was well-established, and the Legislative Council preferred to live there. This coalition solved some of the problems shared by the two colonies, but there were still issues for the new union: there was lot of debt even without the additional cost of two governments; internal opinions were divided as to whether British Columbia should stay independent, join Canada, or join the US; and the governor suddenly died soon after the colonies joined.
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An early view of New Westminster, near Victoria

Divded Opinions

The population of British Columbia was basically divided between three groups at this point. The first group was the confederationalists, who wanted to join Canada. This view was popular because it meant the Canadian government would take care of their debt. They were also interested in the transcontinental railway that would provide an essential link of resources and communication. The second group was the anti-confederationalists, who wanted to reverse the government's decision to join Canada. They believed confederation would deprive them of their right to self-government, as well as their liberty and independence. They even threatened to secede from BC and join the US. The third group, known as the annexationists, were also interested in joining the US, but they believed that this would be more beneficial than any other choice. This small but powerful group campaigned to have the US annex all of Canada, as they were unhappy with the way Britain governed its colonies. Between these three groups, it seemed like British Columbia was a colony divided. However, in the end the most sensible choice was to join Canada - the railway would solve all of BC's problems and carve a path for the future of confederation.

Joining Canada

British Columbia joined the country of Canada in 1871, which brightened the province's future considerably. The Canadian government had the answer for all the major problems faced by British Columbians at that time. Canada took on some of BC's debt, which had outweighed the province's small population. The cost of building public infrastructure added more stress on BC's economy, but Canada helped BC pay for the new works. To prevent BC from being isolated from eastern Canada, the government promised to build the CPR, which would connect all of Canada from coast to coast. Canada was willing to do almost anything to have BC join confederation, because now that Alaska had been acquired by the US Manifest Destiny, there was more fear of being taken over than ever. Closing the border along the 49th Parallel would create a stronger border to defend. Like the government, the Aboriginal peoples of BC had their own reasons for confederation - they needed the support for their education and housing. However, joining Canada would mean that their freedom and resources would be taken from them, like the other Native groups in Canada. The final factor in bringing BC into Canada was the agreement that the anti-confederation supporters would be allowed to write their own conditions. Finally, everyone in BC had reasons to support confederation.
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Port of Vancouver

The Port of Vancouver

In the 19th century, the Port of Vancouver was a major trade center, which had an uplifting effect on the economy of Canada. CPR trains carried minerals and timber from BC to the rest of Canada. Not only was this port beneficial to Canada, but it carried international significance. The All-Red Route, which spanned the global trade network of the British Empire, was supported by the Port of Vancouver. Shipping times from the Orient to London were drastically shortened because of the CPR. As Vancouver become such an important part of the world's economy, BC's position in the global economy was solidified. British Columbia had become a part of Canada, and found its place in the world at the same time.