British Columbia

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British Columbia
Image:Flag of British Columbia.svg Image:BCCoat.JPG
Flag of British Columbia Coat of arms of British Columbia
Motto: Splendor Sine Occasu (Latin: Splendour without diminishment)
Image:British Columbia-map.png
Official languages English de facto (none stated in law)
Flower Pacific dogwood
Tree Western Redcedar
Bird Steller's Jay
Capital Victoria
Largest city Vancouver
Lieutenant-Governor Iona Campagnolo
Premier Gordon Campbell (BC Liberal)
Parliamentary representation
 - House seats
 - Senate seats

 - Land
 - Water  (% of total) 
Ranked 5th
944,735 km²
925,186 km²
19,549 km² (2.1%)
 - Total (2006)
 - Density
Ranked 3rd
GDP (2005)
 - Total
 - Per capita

$168.011 billion (4th)
$39,490 (7th)
Confederation July 20, 1871 (7th)
Time zone UTC−8 & −7
 - Postal
 - ISO 3166-2
 - Postal Code Prefix

All rankings include the territories

British Columbia, often referred to as B.C. or BC (French: Colombie-Britannique, C.-B.), is the westernmost of Canada's provinces and is famed for its natural beauty, as reflected in its Latin motto, Splendor sine occasu ("Splendour without diminishment"). It was the sixth province to join Confederation. Residents are referred to as British Columbians or BCers. Its capital is Victoria while the largest city is Vancouver, which is also Canada's third-largest city.


[edit] Geography

See also: Demographics of British Columbia
Image:Strait of Georgia.jpg
Strait of Georgia, near Vancouver, B.C.

British Columbia is bordered by the Pacific Ocean on its west, by the American state of Alaska on its Northwest, and to the north by the Yukon Territory and the Northwest Territories, on the east by the province of Alberta, and on the south by the 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 up with lands as far south as the California border. British Columbia's land area is 944,735 square kilometers (364,764 square miles) which is about the size of France, Germany and the Netherlands combined. It is larger than the total area of Washington, Oregon and California. British Columbia's rugged coastline stretches for more than 27,000 kilometers (16,780 miles), including deep, mountainous fjords and about 6,000 islands, most of which are uninhabited.

British Columbia's capital is Victoria, located at the southeastern tip of Vancouver Island. BC's most populous city is Vancouver, located in southwest corner of the BC mainland called the Lower Mainland. Other major cities include Surrey, Burnaby, Coquitlam, Richmond, Delta, and New Westminster in the Lower Mainland; Abbotsford and Langley in the Fraser Valley; Nanaimo on Vancouver Island; and Kelowna and Kamloops in the Interior. Prince George is the largest city in the northern part of the province, while a town northwest of it, Vanderhoof, is at the geographic centre of the province.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref>

Image:Mount Robson2.jpg
Mount Robson, Canadian Rockies, B.C.

The Coast Mountains, Canadian Rockies 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. 75% of the province is mountainous (more than 1,000 meters or 3,280 feet above sea level), 60% is forested, and only about 5% is arable. The province is renowned for its picturesque beauty. The Okanagan area is one of only three wine-growing regions in Canada and also produces excellent ciders, but exports little of either beverage. The small rural towns of Penticton, Oliver, and Osoyoos have some of the warmest and longest summer climates in Canada, although their temperature ranges are exceeded by the even-warmer Fraser Canyon towns of Lillooet and Lytton where temperatures on summer afternoons often surpass 40°C (104°F).

Much of the western part of Vancouver Island is covered by temperate rain forest, one of a mere handful of such ecosystems in the world (notable others being on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington and in Chile, New Zealand and Tasmania). The province's mainland away from coastal regions, moderated by the Pacific Ocean and a few southern interior valleys features snowy, cold winters, especially in the north.

Ten Largest Metropolitan Areas in BC by Population<ref>StatsCan-Ten Largest Communities in BC by population</ref>
Community (includes metro areas) 2005 est. 1996
Vancouver 2,208,300 1,831,665
Victoria 334,700 304,287
Abbotsford 155,000 136,480
Kelowna 153,000 136,541
Kamloops 90,000 85,407
Nanaimo 90,000 82,691
Prince George 83,000 87,731
Chilliwack 74,000 66,254
Vernon 52,000 49,701
Courtenay 48,000 46,297

Ten Largest Municipalities in BC by Population
Municipality 2005 est. 1996
Vancouver 583,267 514,008
Surrey (GVA) 393,137 304,477
Burnaby (GVA) 204,324 179,209
Richmond (GVA) 181,942 148,867
Abbotsford 134,000 104,403
Coquitlam (GVA) 121,973 101,820
Saanich 110,387 101,388
Kelowna 109,490 89,422
Delta (GVA) 102,655 95,411
Langley Township (GVA) 97,125 80,179

Image:Okanagan Valley, overlooking Skaha Lake.jpg
A view overlooking Skaha Lake in the Okanagan Valley, one of the driest regions of the province's interior.

[edit] History

[edit] Pre-Confederation

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 First Nations population spread throughout the region, mostly on the coast, where aboriginals achieved the highest density of any place in Canada. At the time of European contact, nearly half the aboriginal people in present-day Canada lived in B.C.

Image:Kwakiutl house pole InvMH975-123-1 .jpg
Kwakiutl house pole, second half of the 19th century.

The explorations of James Cook in the 1770s and George Vancouver in the 1790s, and the concessions of Spain in the 1790s established British jurisdiction over the coastal area north and west of the Columbia River. In 1793, Sir Alexander Mackenzie was the first European to journey across North America overland to the Pacific Ocean, inscribing a stone marking his accomplishment on the shoreline of South Bentinck Arm near Bella Coola. His expedition theoretically established British sovereignty inland, and a succession of other fur company explorers charted the maze of rivers and mountain ranges between the Prairies and the Pacific. Mackenzie and these other explorers — notably John Finlay, Simon Fraser, Samuel Black, and David Thompson — were primarily concerned with extending the fur trade, rather than political considerations.

Their establishment of trading posts under the auspices of the North West Company and the Hudson's Bay Company (HBC), however, effectively established a permanent British presence in the region, which (south of 54-40 latitude) was, as of the Anglo-American Convention of 1818, under the "joint occupancy and use" of citizens of the United States and subjects of Britain (which is to say, the fur companies). This co-occupancy was ended with the Oregon Treaty of 1846.

Some of these early posts would grow into settlements, communities, and cities. Among the places in British Columbia that began as fur trading posts are Fort St. John (established 1794); Hudson's Hope (1805); Fort Nelson (1805); Fort St. James (1806); Prince George (1807); Kamloops (1812); Fort Langley (1827); Victoria (1843); Yale (1848); and Nanaimo (1853). Fur company posts that became cities in what is now the United States include Vancouver, Washington (Fort Vancouver), formerly the "capital" of Hudson's Bay operations in the Columbia District (aka the Oregon Territory), Colville, Washington and Walla Walla, Washington.

With the amalgamation of the two fur trading companies in 1821, the region now comprising British Columbia existed in three fur trading departments. The bulk of the Central and Northern Interior was organised into the New Caledonia district, administered from Fort St. James. The Interior south of the Thompson River watershed and north of the Columbia was organised into the Columbia District, administered from Fort Vancouver (present-day Vancouver, Washington). The northeast corner of the province east of the Rockies, known as the Peace River Block, was attached to the much larger Athabasca District, headquartered in Fort Chipewyan (in present day Alberta).

Until 1849, these districts were a wholly unorganised area of British North America under the defacto jurisdiction of HBC administrators. Unlike Rupert's Land to the north and east, however, the territory was not a concession to the Company. Rather, it was simply granted a monopoly to trade with the First Nations inhabitants. All that was changed with the westward extension of American exploration, and the concomitant overlapping claims of territorial sovereignty, especially in the southern Columbia basin (within present day Washington state and Oregon). In 1846, the Oregon Treaty divided the territory along the 49th parallel to Georgia Strait, with the area south of this boundary, excluding Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands) transferred to sole American sovereignty. The Colony of Vancouver Island was created in 1849, with Victoria designated as the capital. New Caledonia continued to be an unorganized territory of British North America, "administered" by individual HBC trading post managers.

With the Fraser Canyon Gold Rush in 1858, an influx of Americans into New Caledonia prompted the colonial office to formally designate the mainland as the Colony of British Columbia, with New Westminster as its capital. A second gold rush — the Cariboo Gold Rush — followed in 1862, forcing the colonial administration into deeper debt as it struggled to meet the extensive infrastructure needs of far-flung boom communities like Barkerville and Lillooet, which literally sprang up overnight. The Vancouver Island colony was facing financial crises of its own, and pressure to merge the two eventually succeeded in 1866, with the name British Columbia being applied to the newly united colony.

[edit] Rapid growth and development

The Confederation League led by such figures as Amor De Cosmos, John Robson, and Robert Beaven had long led the chorus pressing for the colony to join Canada, which had been created out of three British North American colonies in 1867. 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. With the agreement by the Canadian government to extend the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) to British Columbia and to assume the colony's debt, BC became the sixth province to join Confederation on July 20, 1871. The borders of the province were not completely settled until 1903, however, when the province's territory shrank somewhat after the Alaska Boundary Dispute settled the vague boundary of the Alaska Panhandle.

Population in British Columbia continued to expand as the province's mining, forestry, agriculture, and fishing sectors were developed. Mining activity was particularly notable 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 and elsewhere. Agriculture attracted settlers to the fertile Fraser Valley, and cattle ranchers and later fruit growers to the drier grasslands of the Thompson River area, the Cariboo, the Chilcotin, and the Okanagan. Forestry drew workers to the lush temperate rain forests of the coast, which was also the locus of a growing fishery.

The completion of the CPR in 1885-86 was a huge boost to the province's economy, facilitating the transportation of the region's considerable resources to the east. The booming logging town of Granville, near the mouth of the Burrard Inlet was selected as the terminus of the railway, prompting the incorporation of the community as Vancouver in 1886. The completion of the Port of Vancouver spurred rapid growth, and in less than fifty years the city would surpass Winnipeg as the largest in western Canada.The early decades of the province were ones in which issues of land use — specifically, its settlement and development — were paramount. This included expropriation from First Nations people of their land, control over its resources, as well as the ability to trade in some resources (such as the fishery). Establishing a labour force to develop the province was problematic from the start, and British Columbia was the locus of immigration not only from Europe, but also from China and Japan. The influx of a non-caucasian population stimulated resentment from the dominant ethnic groups, resulting in agitation (much of it successful) to restrict the ability of Asian people to immigrate to British Columbia through the imposition of a head tax. This resentment culminated in mob attacks against Chinese and Japanese immigrants in Vancouver in 1887 and 1907. By 1923, almost all Chinese immigration had been blocked except for merchants and investors (see Anti-Chinese legislation in Canada).

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.

[edit] The 1920s through the 1940s

When the men returned from World War I, they discovered the recently-enfranchised women of the province had helped vote in the prohibition of liquor in an effort to end the social problems associated with the hard-core drinking that Vancouver and the rest of the province was famous for until the war. Because of pressure from veterans, prohibition was quickly relaxed so that the "soldier and the working man" could enjoy a drink, but widespread unemployment among veterans was hardened by many of the available jobs being taken by European immigrants - Italians and others - and disgruntled veterans organized a range of "soldier parties" to represent their interests, variously named Soldier-Farmer, Soldier-Labour, and Farmer-Labour Parties. These formed the basis of the fractured labour-political spectrum that would generate a host of fringe leftist and rightist parties, including those who would eventually form the Co-operative Commonwealth and the early Social Credit splinter groups.

The advent of prohibition in the United States created new opportunities, and many found employment or at least profit in cross-border liquor smuggling. Much of Vancouver's prosperity and opulence in the 1920s is due to this "pirate economy", although growth in forestry, fishing and mining continued. The end of US-side Prohibition, combined with the onset of the Great Depression, plunged the province into economic destitution. Compounding the already dire local economic situation, tens of thousands of men from colder parts of Canada swarmed into Vancouver, creating huge hobo jungles around False Creek and the Burrard Inlet railyards, including the old CPR mainline right-of-way through the heart of the city's downtown (at Hastings and Carrall). Increasingly desperate times led to intense political organizing efforts, an occupation of the main Post Office at Granville & Hastings which was violently put down by the police, and an effective imposition of martial law on the docks for almost three years. A Vancouver contingent for the On-to-Ottawa Trek was organized and seized a train, which was loaded with thousands of men bound for the capital but was met by a Gatling gun straddling the tracks at Mission; the men were arrested and sent to work camps for the duration of the Depression.

There were some signs of economic life beginning to assert normalcy towards the end of the '30s, but it was the onset of World War II which transformed the national economy and ended the hard times of the Depression. Because of the war effort, women entered the workforce as never before.

BC has long taken advantage of its Pacific coast to have close relations with East Asia. However, this has caused friction, with frequent feelings of animosity towards Asian immigrants. This was most manifest during the Second World War when many people of Japanese descent were relocated or interned in the Interior of the province.

[edit] A second growth spurt: the 1950s and 1960s

The post-World War II years saw Vancouver and Victoria also become cultural centres as poets, authors, artists, musicians, as well as dancers, actors, and haute cuisine chefs flocked to the beautiful scenery and warmer temperatures. Similarly, these cities have either attracted or given rise to their own noteworthy academics, commentators, and creative thinkers. Tourism also began to play an important role in the economy. The rise of Japan and other Pacific economies was a great boost to the BC economy.

[edit] Shifting fortunes: BC since the 1970s

The Socreds were forced from power in 1972 paving the way for a brief period of NDP government; a public that perceived the government as too brash and not entirely up to the job turfed them out in 1975 and restored the Socreds to power under W.A.C. Bennett's son, Bill Bennett, and the Socreds remained in power through the 1980s under Bennett and then Bill Van Der Zalm, and were criticized outside the province for their conservative values.

[edit] Demographics

See also: Cities in British Columbia and List of communities in British Columbia

[edit] Population of British Columbia since 1851

Year Population Five Year
% change
Ten Year
% change
Rank Among
1851 55,000 n/a n/a 6
1861 51.524 n/a -6.3 6
1871 36,247 n/a -29.7 7
1881 49,459 n/a 36.4 8
1891 98,173 n/a 98.5 8
1901 178,657 n/a 82.0 6
1911 392,480 n/a 119.7 6
1921 524,582 n/a 33.7 6
1931 694,263 n/a 32.3 6
1941 817,861 n/a 17.8 6
1951 1,165,210 n/a 42.5 3
1956 1,398,464 20.0 n/a 3
1961 1,629,082 16.5 39.8 3
1966 1,873,674 15.0 34.0 3
1971 2,184,620 16.6 34.1 3
1976 2,466,610 12.9 31.6 3
1981 2,744,467 11.3 25.6 3
1986 2,883,370 5.1 16.9 3
1991 3,282,061 13.8 19.6 3
1996 3,724,500 13.5 29.2 3
2001 3,907,738 4.9 19.1 3
2006* 4,310,452 10.3 15.7 3

*Preliminary 2006 census estimate.

Source: Statistics Canada<ref>Statistics Canada - Population</ref><ref>Canada's population. Statistics Canada. Last accessed September 28, 2006.</ref>

[edit] Ethnic groups

Note: The following statistics represent both single (e.g., "German") and multiple (e.g., "part Chinese, part English") responses to the 2001 Census, and thus do not add up to 100%.

Ethnic Origin Population Percent
English 1,144,335 25.58%
Canadian 939,460 24.28%
Scottish 748,905 19.36%
Irish 562,895 14.55%
German 500,675 12.94%
Chinese 373,830 9.66%
French 331,535 8.57%
Indian 183,650 4.75%
Dutch (Netherlands) 180,635 4.67%
Ukrainian 178,880 4.62%
First Nations 175,085 4.53%
Italian 126,420 3.27%
Norwegian 112,045 2.90%
Polish 107,340 2.77%
Swedish 89,630 2.32%
Welsh 86,710 2.24%
Russian 86,110 2.23%
Filipino 69,345 1.79%
American (USA) 59,075 1.53%
Danish 49,685 1.28%
Métis 45,455 1.17%
Hungarian (Magyar) 43,515 1.12%
Source: Statistics Canada<ref>2001 Canadian Census</ref>

British Columbia has a very diverse ethnic population, with a large number of immigrants having lived in the province for 30 years or less. Asians are by far the largest visible minority demographic, with many of the Lower Mainland's large cities having sizable Chinese, Japanese, Filipino, and Korean communities. The East Indian population is also considerable, especially in Surrey and South Vancouver.

Also present in large numbers relative to other cities in 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 Asian or other non-European ethnicities more than in any other Canadian province[citation needed]. 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. It is the only province where "English" ethnicity gets more response than "Canadian". American ancestry is under-reported; many Americans crossed into British Columbia during 19th century gold rushes and political turmoil like the Vietnam War.

The percentages add to more than 100% because of dual responses (e.g. "French-Canadian" generates an entry in both the category "French" and the category "Canadian".) Groups with greater than 40,000 responses are included.

Further information: Statistics Canada. "British Columbia ethno-cultural profile"<ref>Statistics Canada. "British Columbia ethno-cultural profile"</ref>

[edit] Politics

The Lieutenant Governor, Iona Campagnolo, is the Queen of Canada's representative in the Province of British Columbia. During the absence of the Lieutenant-Governor, the federal Cabinet may appoint an Administrator to execute the duties of the office. In practice, this is usually the Chief Justice of British Columbia.<ref> Executive Power in the Provinces under the Constitutional Act, 1867.</ref>

BC has a 79-member elected Legislative Assembly, elected by the plurality voting system, though in recent years there has been significant debate about switching to a single transferable vote system.

Currently, the province is governed by the British Columbia Liberal Party under Premier Gordon Campbell. Campbell won the largest landslide election in BC history in 2000 (77 of 79 seats), but the legislature is more evenly divided between Liberals and members of the social democratic New Democratic Party following the 2005 provincial election.

The British Columbia Liberal Party is unrelated to the federal Liberal Party and does not share its ideology. Instead, the BC Liberal party is a rather diverse coalition, made up of the remnants of the Social Credit Party, many federal Liberals, federal Conservatives, and those who would otherwise support right-of-centre or 'free enterprise' parties. Historically, there have commonly been third parties members present in the legislature, but there are presently none.

Prior to the rise of the Liberal Party, British Columbia's main right-of-centre political party was the BC Social Credit Party which ruled BC for almost 40 continuous years.

BC is well-known for having very politically active labour unions, who normally support the NDP.

[edit] Economy

British Columbia has a resource dominated economy. While employment in the resource sector has fallen steadily, unemployment is currently at a 30-year low of 4.5%<ref>BC Stats</ref>. New jobs are mostly in the construction and retail/service sectors. Currently, the Vancouver region is the third-largest feature film production location in North America, after Los Angeles and New York<ref>Film and Development</ref>

Major employers:

[edit] Transportation

[edit] History

Transportation played a major role in British Columbia history. The Rocky Mountains and the ranges west of them constituted a significant obstacle to overland travel until the completion of the transcontinental railway in 1885. The Peace River Canyon through the Rocky Mountains was the route that the earliest explorers and fur traders used. Along with that route, overland travel from the rest of Canada involved using a combination of trails and wagon roads (such as the Cariboo Wagon Road). The difficulty of overland travel prior to 1885 meant that most transportation to and from the region occurred via the Pacific Ocean, primarily through the ports of Victoria and New Westminster.

Until the 1930s, rail was the only means of overland travel to and from the rest of Canada — travellers using motor vehicles needed to journey through the United States. With the construction of the Inter-Provincial Highway in 1932 (now known as the Crowsnest Pass Highway), and later the Trans-Canada Highway, road transportation evolved into the preferred mode of overland travel to and from the rest of the country.

[edit] Roads and highways

Alex Fraser Bridge on Highway 91 in Vancouver.

Due to its size and rugged, varying topography, British Columbia requires thousands of kilometres of provincial highways to connect its communities. British Columbia's roads systems were notoriously poorly maintained and dangerous until a concentrated programme of improvement was initiated in the 1950s and 60s. There are now freeways in the Lower Mainland and Central Interior of the province, and much of the rest of the province is accessible by well-maintained two lane arterial highways with additional passing lanes in mountainous areas. The building and maintenance of provincial highways is the responsibility of the provincial government.

There are four major routes through the Rocky Mountains to the rest of Canada. From south to north they are: The Crowsnest Pass Highway through Sparwood, the Trans-Canada Highway through Banff National Park, the Yellowhead Highway through Jasper National Park, and Highway 2 through Dawson Creek. There are also several highway crossings to the adjoining American states of Washington, Idaho, and Montana. The longest highway is Highway 97, running 2081 km from the BC-Washington border at Osoyoos north to Watson Lake, Yukon.

[edit] Surface public transit

Prior to 1978, surface public transit was administered by BC Hydro (formerly British Columbia Electric), the provincial crown corporation responsible for the production and distribution of electricity. Subsequently, the province established BC Transit to oversee and operate all municipal transportation systems. In 1998, TransLink, a separate authority for the Greater Vancouver Regional District, was established.

Public Transit in British Columbia consists mainly of diesel buses, although the City of Vancouver is also serviced by a fleet of electric buses. TransLink operates SkyTrain, a light rapid transit system serving Vancouver, Burnaby, New Westminster, and North Surrey. Presently, extensions of the line south to Richmond (the Canada Line) and east to Coquitlam and Port Moody (the Evergreen Line) are being developed.

[edit] Rail

Image:Eastbound over SCB.jpg
CPR train traversing the Stoney Creek Bridge.

The completion of the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) in 1885 was a condition of British Columbia's entry into the Canadian Confederation. Rail development expanded greatly in the subsequent decades, and was the chief mode of long-distance surface transportation until the expansion and improvement of the provincial highways system began in the 1950s. Apart from the CPR, numerous other lines were developed. Two major routes through the Yellowhead Pass competed with the CPR — the Grand Trunk Pacific, terminating at Prince Rupert, and the Canadian National Railway (CNR), terminating at Vancouver. The Pacific Great Eastern (PGE) line supplemented this service, providing a north-south route between Interior resource communities and the coast. The PGE (later known as British Columbia Railway and now owned by CNR) connects Fort St. James, Fort Nelson, and Tumbler Ridge with North Vancouver.

[edit] Water

BC Ferries was established as a provincial crown corporation in 1960 to provide passenger and vehicle ferry service between Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland as a cheaper and more reliable alternative to the service operated by the CPR. It now operates 25 routes among the islands of British Columbia, as well as between the islands and the mainland. Ferry service to Washington is offered by the Washington State Ferries (between Sidney and Anacortes) and Black Ball Ferries (between Victoria and Port Angeles). Ferry service over inland lakes and rivers is provided by the provincial government.

Commercial ocean transport is of vital importance. Major ports are located at Vancouver, Roberts Bank (near Tsawwassen), Prince Rupert, and Victoria. Of these, the Port of Vancouver is the most important, being the largest in Canada and the most diversified in North America. Vancouver, Victoria, and Prince Rupert are also major ports of call for cruise ships.

[edit] Air

There are over 200 airports located throughout B.C, the major ones being the Vancouver International Airport (YVR), the Victoria International Airport (YYJ), the Kelowna International Airport (YLW), and the Prince George International Airport (YXS), the first three of which each served over 1,000,000 passengers in 2005. Vancouver International Airport is the second busiest airport in the country with an estimated 16 million travellers passing through in 2005.

[edit] Parks and protected areas

Yoho National Park

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, 4 National Parks and 3 National Park Reserves. 12.5% (114,000 km²) of BC is currently considered 'protected' under one of the 14 different designations that includes over 800 distinct areas.

British Columbia contains seven of Canada's national parks:

BC also contains a large network of provincial parks, run by BC Parks of the Ministry of Environment. BC's provincial parks system is the second largest parks system in Canada (the largest is Canadian National Parks system).

In addition to these areas, over 4.7 million hectares of arable land are protected by the Agricultural Land Reserve.

British Columbia Magazine continually features articles on BC's remote and accessible parks, as well as the wildlife and wilderness areas within.

[edit] Recreation

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.

Much of the province is wild or semi-wild, so that populations of very many mammalian species that have become rare in much of the United States still flourish in B.C. 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—only found in British Columbia) live here, as do deer, elk, moose, caribou, big-horn sheep, mountain goats, beavers, muskrat, coyotes, wolves, mustelids (such as wolverines and fishers) mountain lions, eagles, ospreys, herons, Canada geese, swans, loons, hawks, owls, ravens, and many sorts of ducks. Smaller birds (robins, jays, grosbeaks, chickadees, etc.) also abound.

Healthy populations of many sorts of fish are found in the waters (including salmonids such as several species of salmon, trout, char, etc.). Besides salmon and trout, sport-fishers in B.C. also catch halibut, steelhead, bass, and sturgeon.

Water sports, both motorized and non-motorized, are enjoyed in many places. Sea kayaking opportunities abound on the B.C. 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 will be held in Whistler-Blackcomb area of the province, while the indoor events will be 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 more robust mountain bikes, 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.

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, softball, basketball, curling and figure skating. B.C. has produced many outstanding athletes, especially in aquatic and winter sports. Also, today programmes of training and toning systems like aerobics and hatha yoga are widespread. Most communities of several thousand people or more have developed facilities for these.

Consistent with both increased tourism and increased participation in diverse recreations by British Columbians themselves 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.

[edit] Recreational cannabis

There has also been a rise of a 'marijuana culture' in many parts of BC, to the extent that a provincial political party has been formed known as the British Columbia Marijuana Party. Production and sale of the drug is estimated by the provincial Organized Crime Agency to be among the province's largest industries.<ref>Organized Crime Agency-Marijuana industry article</ref> In Vancouver, there are several open and almost "Amsterdam"-style coffee houses where it is assumed that people can meet and openly smoke (but not purchase) marijuana, although the extent to which this is true is greatly exaggerated. These shops number at least four, three of which are all located in the downtown area and have been the frequent target of raids by the police.
Image:Cannabis sativa.jpg
A crop of Cannabis Sativa, or "BC Bud."
The degree to which police turn a blind eye reflects what the justice system can bear in terms of enforcing drug laws and open use on the streets will still likely result in an arrest and confiscation. Although police may seem to tolerate cannabis use in some urban areas, the drug remains illegal throughout the province and controlling its spread remains an ongoing and much-debated legal issue in the province. The rise of indoor marijuana "grow ops" in suburban communities and their association with organized crime continues to be a concern, although much production is done in highly decentralized "Mom-and-Pop"-type operations. The quality, assortment, and price of this marijuana makes British Columbia a destination for those taking an interest in cannabis.

A study released on October 4, 2006 by the University of Victoria Centre for Addictions Research of BC and Simon Fraser University Applied Research on Mental Health and Addictions indicated Cannabis use is more widespread among British Columbians than the rest of Canadians. <ref>Cannabis Use Highest in BC</ref>

[edit] Famous British Columbians

[edit] Maps

[edit] Regional districts

The primary local administrative units of British Columbia are its 28 Regional Districts.

[edit] Cities

Half of all British Columbians live in the Greater Vancouver Regional District, 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, as well as 17 Indian reserves and the unincorporated regional district electoral area known as Greater Vancouver Electoral Area A.

Other municipalities:

Campbell River
Dawson Creek
Fort St. John

North Cowichan
Prince George
Victoria (provincial capital)
Williams Lake

See also: List of communities in British Columbia

[edit] See also

[edit] References


[edit] External links

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