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British Columbia

British Columbia is the westernmost of Canada's provinces and is known for its natural beauty. British Columbia became Canada's sixth province on July 20, 1871. Like its neighbours to the east, British Columbia is a relatively young province but also carries with it a fascinating history.

The establishment of trading posts, under the auspices of the North West Company and the Hudson's Bay Company, effectively established a permanent British presence in the region. Exploration of the area escaped the attention of most Europeans largely because of transportation. By sea, the distance from Europe was vast and via land mountain barriers made exploration exceedingly difficult. The British, Russians, and American were all keenly interested in exploiting the vast amounts of fur along the west coast. In 1858, gold was discovered along the banks of the Fraser River, prompting an increase in settlement. The British colonial office responded to the gold rush by establishing the mainland as a crown colony on August 2, 1858, naming it the Colony of British Columbia.

The passing of the gold rush less than a decade later left the colony exhausted, depressed, and facing a large debt. However, the colony's population by this point was substantial and many men remained in the area. Winning support for entry into Canada was not easy. Many favoured joining the United States for its close proximity. Amor de Cosmos, a prominent member of the colony's Legislative Assembly, was an ardent pro-confederationist and a close friend of Prime Minister John A. McDonald. An agreement was worked out between the Dominion of Canada and the British Columbia Executive Council that stipulated the following: the Dominion would assume the colony's debt, make an annual payment of 80 cents per person, and build a railroad between east and west within ten years.

Resources

MacEwan, Grant. A Short History of Western Canada. Toronto: McGraw-Hill Ryerson, 1968.


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