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What is British Columbia?

British Columbia is a province in western Canada.
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  • Written By: Mary Elizabeth
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 01 August 2014
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British Columbia is one of Canada’s ten provinces, along with Manitoba, Alberta, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Ontario, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Québec, and Saskatchewan. The rest of Canada’s land consists of three territories: Northwest Territories, Nunavut, and Yukon Territory.

British Columbia, including its Pacific islands, is bordered on the west by the Campbell River, the Strait of Juan de Fuca, the Pacific Ocean, Queen Charlotte Sound, the Gulf of Alaska, and the state of Alaska. To the north, it is bordered by the Yukon Territory and the Northwest Territory, to the east by Alberta, and to the south by the states of Washington, Idaho, and Montana.

The name British Columbia comes from the colony of that name, formed in 1858 in the region of the Columbia River. British Columbia is Canada’s third largest province with an area of 364,764 square miles (944,735 sq km), and the fifth largest division if the territories are included. It makes up nearly 10% of the land in Canada. The 2007 population of British Columbia was 4,380,300, the third greatest of any region. Victoria is the capital of the province, and other important cities include Vancouver — one of Canada’s largest ports, North Vancouver, and New Westminster.

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British Columbia is nicknamed the Pacific Province, and the motto of British Columbia is Splendor Sine Occasu, which means Splendor without diminishment. The provincial emblems are as follows:

  • Floral emblem: Flowering Dogwood
  • Mineral emblem: Jade
  • Arboreal emblem: Western Red Cedar
  • Avian emblem: Steller’s Jay

  • Mammal emblem: Spirit Bear in its white color phase
  • Shield of Arms: Union Jack above with wavy blue and silver lines to symbolize the position between the Pacific Ocean and the Rocky Mountains, with the setting sun below.
  • Coat of Arms: The shield of arms with an elk and bighorn sheep supporting it, surmounted by a royal crest in which the lion is decked with dogwood flowers, and a golden helmet to symbolize sovereignty. The motto appears below.
  • Flag: The design of the flag is identical to the shield of arms.

    British Columbia’s population directly reflects its history. Still prominent are people’s whose ancestors helped found the province: the English, Scottish, and Northern Irish, as well as descendants of miners who responded to the gold rush of 1858 and Chinese laborers who came to help build the Canadian Pacific railroad, and — with an opening up if the immigration policy — many other minorities. The Native peoples, whose numbers were seriously reduced by the diseases they contracted from colonists, have now reattained something close to the population ranks they had before settlers arrived, but are a minority in the population as a whole.

    Service and manufacturing form the mainstay of today’s economy in British Columbia, much of this enterprise connected with its abundant natural resources, as well as a healthy amount of tourism. Arable land is limited in this province of mountains and many tiny islands, but on the other hand, British Columbia has a full fifth of Canada’s forests and is responsible for half the timber harvested in Canada each year.

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