Meanwhile, Over On Vancouver Island
- Best of Vancouver and Victoria
- Vancouver Island: High Tea to Low Tide
- Vancouver’s Totem Poles
- Vancouver’s Best Hiking
- Family Fun in Vancouver & Victoria
- Focus on Vancouver and Victoria
- Vancouver Weekend Getaway
- Victoria Weekend Getaway
- A Tour Through Time
- Inside Passage Cruises
- Outdoor Adventures
- Winter Fun in Vancouver & Victoria
In 1792, when Captain George Vancouver sailed through the Strait of Georgia, he noted and named Vancouver Island, but his short visit had little effect on the many indigenous communities living along the shoreline.
Needing to firmly establish British presence on the continent’s northwest coast, the Hudson’s Bay Company built Fort Victoria—named after Queen Victoria—on the southern tip of Vancouver Island in 1843. Three years later, the Oregon Treaty fixed the U.S.–Canadian boundary at the 49th parallel, with the proviso that the section of Vancouver Island lying south of that line would be retained by Canada. To forestall any claims that the United States may have had on the area, the British government gazetted the island as a Crown colony and leased it back to the Hudson’s Bay Company. Gradually land around Fort Victoria was opened up by groups of British settlers brought to the island by the company’s subsidiary, Puget Sound Agricultural Company. Several large company farms were developed, and Esquimalt Harbour became a major port for British ships.
Although mostly content to leave the island in the hands of the Hudson’s Bay Company, the Brits nevertheless sent Richard Blanshard out from England to become the island colony’s first governor. Blanshard soon resigned and was replaced in 1851 by James Douglas, chief factor of the Hudson’s Bay Company. Douglas had long been in control of the island, and his main concerns were to maintain law and order and to purchase land from the natives. He made treaties with the tribes in which the land became the “entire property of the white people forever.” In return, tribes retained use of their village sites and enclosed fields and could hunt and fish on unoccupied lands. Each indigenous family was paid a pitiful compensation.
The Growth of Victoria
In the late 1850s, gold strikes on the mainland’s Thompson and Fraser Rivers brought thousands of gold miners into Victoria, the region’s only port and source of supplies. Overnight, Victoria became a classic boomtown, but with a distinctly British flavor; most of the company men, early settlers, and military personnel firmly maintained their homeland traditions and celebrations. Even after the gold rush ended, Victoria remained an energetic bastion of military, economic, and political activity and was officially incorporated as a city in 1862. In 1868, two years after the colonies of Vancouver Island and British Columbia were united, Victoria was made capital. Throughout the two world wars, Victoria continued to grow. The commencement of ferry service between Tsawwassen and Sidney in 1903 created a small population boom, but Victoria has always lagged well behind Vancouver in the population stakes.
© Andrew Hempstead, from Moon Western Canada, 3rd Edition