What is British Columbia?

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  • Written By: Mary Elizabeth
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 09 September 2019
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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.


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

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