British Columbia is the farthest west of Canada’s provinces and the only one to share two borders with the United States.  The province was named by Queen Victoria in 1858 due to the region’s origins as the British component of the Columbia District held by the Hudson Bay Company.  British Columbia is a blend of modern marvels in stunning natural settings and is a wonderful place to visit or settle in.  Some of the following facts are well-known, but others may surprise you.

The People

Coal Harbor SunriseMicheal Chu, Flickr:

1. About half of the population of 4.6 million lives in the Vancouver Metropolitan area which includes 19 cities and municipalities and is one of the most ethnically diverse cities in the country.  More than half of the residents don’t have English as a first language with Chinese being the most common group of languages after English.

2. The southern tip of Vancouver Island holds the second largest concentration of people in the Capital Regional District which includes 13 municipalities – one of which is the capital city of Victoria.  Daily ferries leave Victoria for Seattle, Port Angeles and the U.S. San Juan Islands.

3. Kelowna and Abbotsford each have populations over 150,000 while Kamloops, Nanaimo and Chilliwack are around the 100,000 mark.  Approximately 50 regions are legally noted as cities, the smallest with a population of 708 although most are over 5,000.

4. Politically similar to counties, B.C. is divided into 29 regional districts that provide local government and municipal services.  Fraser Valley Regional District is the largest after Capital and Greater/Metro Vancouver Regional Districts representing more than a quarter of a million residents.

The Political

BC Flag

5. The provincial flag is based on the coat of arms and has a Royal Union Flag marked by a crown on the top half and the setting sun on the lower half.  The blue and white lines behind the sun represent the Pacific Ocean and Rocky Mountains while the sun is embolic of B.C.’s western location. 

6. B.C. has a number of provincial animals, the most unique of which is the Spirit Bear- the provincial mammal.  Also known as the Kermode Bear, it’s a white bear that is a genetic variant rather than an albino black bear.  The province has the highest concentration of black (and blonde) bears in the world.

7. There’s both a provincial flower – the Pacific Dogwood – and a provincial tree – the Western Red Cedar.  The dogwood is an early bloomer and produces brilliant red berries in the autumn.  The cedar is important to the Aboriginal people of the west coast and is a resource for the province.  There is also a provincial bird (Steller’s Jay), fish (Pacific Salmon), gemstone (jade) and tartan (blue, white, green, red and gold).

The Places

8. Whistler Blackcomb is one of the best resorts in North America for skiing and snowboarding.  The two peaks are connected by gondola- the longest unsupported cable car in the world - and the pedestrian village is almost as much of a draw as the mountains.  Summer activities include golf, hiking and mountain biking.  The chair lifts are modified to hold bikes and the largest annual freeride competition for mountain bikes is held here during the summer.

9. Pacific Rim National Park has the West Coast Trail as well as a number of other hiking trails.  Over 100 islands are inviting for kayakers and canoeists while the pounding waves call to surfers and paddle boarders.  The grey whales migrate through the waters during the spring while humpbacks and Orcas visit from May to October.

West Coast Trail

10. Tofino is a very popular recreation area near both Pacific Rim National Park and Maquinna Marine Provincial Park.  During the summer the area attracts surfers, campers, hikers and other nature lovers.  Winter visitors often come to watch the storms on the Pacific and take advantage of the natural hot springs at Maquinna.  In March it’s the site of the Pacific Rim Whale Festival and June visitors can enjoy the Tofino Food and Wine Festival.

The Past

11. The first residents of B.C. were mainly the Tlingit, Sekani, Haida, Chilcotin and the Shuswap that lived largely along the coast to take advantage of the resources provided by the ocean.  They explored the coastline in hand-dug canoes and carved decorative and spiritual images from wood.  The First Nations are still represented in the province and are a valuable part of the region’s culture.

12. Vancouver Island was first visited by the European Captain James Cook and mapped by George Vancouver.  The interior of the province was explored by Alexander MacKenzie, Simon Fraser and David Thompson.  Many people came to the province during the Fraser Valley Gold Rush of 1857-58 and the Canadian government began plans for a railway which finally reached Vancouver in 1885. 

The Parks

13. The province has 1,030 parks and protected areas and is continually expanding both the number and the size of the regions. The current amount of protected space is equal to an area about four times the size of Prince Edward Island.  200,000 hectares of this is habitat for the Spirit Bear at the Kitasoo Spirit Bear Conservancy between Vancouver and Prince Rupert.


14. There are seven national parks in the province, two heritage parks, one sanctuary and seven recreational areas.  There are also six conservancy areas and several hundred ecological reserves.  In total approximately 12% of the provincial land is a park or protected area.  Many have camping and other recreational activities although a few are completely protected.

15. The Fraser River is named for the explorer and is the longest river in the province.  Its source is a dripping spring in Fraser pass and it flows 1,375 km to empty into the Georgia Strait near Vancouver.  Several tributaries have been dammed for hydroelectric power but the Fraser has been left clear for fishing and boating.  In July 2012 a 500 kg sturgeon was caught and released back into the river and is believed to be the largest rod-caught freshwater fish in North America.

The Play

16. In 2010 Vancouver and Whistler hosted one of the largest sporting events in the world, the 2010 Winter Olympics and Paralympics.  The games were praised by attendees and the committee as having an inclusive atmosphere that was attributed to the citizens of Vancouver and Canada. The games were also extremely well attended and watched.

17. B.C. is home to the Canucks, the NHL team that has advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals three times and won the President’s Trophy twice.  The Canucks work with local hockey organizations to promote amateur hockey and encourage young people to play the game.  The team plays in the Rogers Arena, the same venue that was used for ice hockey at the 2010 Winter Olympics.

Okanagan Vineyard

18. The province has over 864 vineyards that produce world-class wines from five distinct viticulture areas.  The Association of British Columbia Winegrowers account for about 70% of the wine produced in the province and is made up of small, mostly family-owned wineries.  The biggest wine-producing regions are Okanagan Valley, Similkameen Valley, Kootenays, Vancouver Island, Gulf Islands and Fraser Valley.

 The Future

19. B.C. has some of the lowest power costs in North America in part due to being the third largest producer of hydroelectricity.  The province is also the second largest producer of natural gas.  A number of people use solar, wind or even small hydro generators to create their own power in order to live completely off the grid.

20. The film industry is growing in B.C., generating about $1.2 billion in the last few years.  Film and television in the province employ about 25,000 people directly and numerous others in businesses that support the industry.  Currently British Columbia is the fourth-largest film production centre in North America.  Popular films including Twilight were filmed here and ongoing television series use many of the parks and unique cityscapes in their production.


Did any of the facts surprise you? 

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