Happy birthday British Columbia!
The first Monday in August is B.C. Day, a civic holiday across the province. It is a time when people get out and enjoy the beautiful scenery in the province, and most cities organize celebratory events and cultural festivals.
The British Columbia Day Act was first introduced to the Legislative Assembly in 1974, and it gained royal assent in the same year. The aim of the bill was to create a statutory holiday on the first Monday in August to recognize the pioneers in the province.
These include First Nations people like the Katzie who lived in the land that is now Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows, settled here for thousands of years before European contact.
Spanish explorer Juan Jose Perez Hernandez is believed to be the first European to travel here in 1774, followed four years later by England’s more celebrated explorer Captain James Cook, who reached Nootka Sound.
A gold rush was started in the 1850s along the Fraser River, and thousands of people flocked here. Towns sprung up overnight. In 1871, B.C. became the sixth province in what was then the Dominion of Canada.
There is some key local history that is part of this story.
A large statue of James Douglas stands at the entrance of Fort Langley National Historic Site – the very place Douglas declared B.C. a Crown Colony.
Douglas worked for the Hudson’s Bay Company, and would be instrumental in the formation of the province – becoming the first governor of the Colony of British Columbia. He is often referred to as the “Father of B.C.”
Some of Douglas’s actions have been celebrated, such as his interracial relationship with Métis woman Amelia Connolly, while his autocratic governing methods and treatment of other Indigenous people have been called into question.
“When presenting James Douglas, the agency no longer uses language such as ‘Father of BC,’ said Kate Humble, National Historic Sites Manager for Coastal BC, “understanding that what we call British Columbia today was shaped by many different people from Indigenous communities and leaders, to entrepreneurs, to Chinese gold miners, to Hawaiian labourers, and people searching for a better life, to name just a few.”
– With files from Ryan Uytdewilligen, Black Press Media