People and Culture
When British Columbia joined the confederation to become a Canadian province in 1871, its population was only 36,000, and 27,000 of the residents were natives. With the completion of the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1885, immigration during the early 20th century, and the rapid industrial development after World War II, the provincial population burgeoned. Between 1951 and 1971 it doubled. Today 4.1 million people live in British Columbia (8 percent of Canada’s total). The population is concentrated in the southwest, namely in Vancouver, on the south end of Vancouver Island, and in the Okanagan Valley. These three areas make up less than 1 percent of the province but account for 80 percent of the population. The overall population density is just 3.7 people per square kilometer.
British Columbia is third only to Alberta and Ontario as Canada’s fastest growing province. Annual population growth has been averaging 5 percent over the last decade. Around 70 percent of this population growth can be attributed to westward migration across the country. Retirees make up a large percentage of these new arrivals, as to a lesser extent do young professionals.
Around 40 percent of British Columbians are of British origin, followed by 30 percent of other European lineage, mostly French and German. To really get the British feeling, just spend some time in Victoria—a city that has retained its original English customs and traditions from days gone by. First Nations make up 3.7 percent of the population. While the native peoples of British Columbia have adopted the technology and the ways of the European, they still remain a distinct group, contributing to and enriching the culture of the province. Asians have made up a significant percentage of the population since the mid-1800s, when they came in search of gold. More recently, the province saw an influx of settlers from Hong Kong prior to the 1997 transfer of control of that city from Britain to China.
© Andrew Hempstead, from Moon Western Canada, 3rd Edition