In response to Ben Pires (Victoria) July 15 letter (Sincere reconciliation efforts would include changing our province’s ‘colonial’ name), I summarize the history of British Columbia with the hope all citizens might celebrate the Aug. 1 provincial holiday with more understanding of how it evolved.
The BC colonial period was only eight years (1858-1866). Prior to that era, territorial disputes between Russia, Spain, the United Kingdom and the U.S. for control of the Pacific Coast had continued for decades, characterized by commercial (not military) forts. After the defeat of the Spanish Armada by the British and the defeat of the Americans in the War of 1812 (Ontario area), British naval and commercial power along the Columbia River ascended. Russia sold its territory (now Alaska) to prevent the British from obtaining a stronghold.
In 1793, a private American seagoing trading vessel arrived at the mouth of the Columbia River, in what is now Oregon, six weeks before the overland journey of HBS surveyor David Thompson was concluded. The ship was named Columbia Rediviva and the river takes its name from that event.
The major issue in the 1844 U.S. election was the extension of the U.S. border to the 54:40 parallel. Eventually, the British ceded the mouth of the Columbia to the U.S. but insisted on keeping all of Vancouver Island (the southern tip of which is below the 49th Parallel).
The name British Columbia refers to the part of the huge river highway that was retained by the Brits and which became the westernmost province of Canada. A new nation that extended “from sea to sea.” There is no way Indigenous Peoples could escape colonization, but perhaps many might agree that given the possibilities (Russian, Spanish, American) they got the best of a bad draw. Perhaps true reconciliation might be built upon a more fair analysis that includes the consequences of territorial disputes. And possibly we could celebrate Aug. 1 with love in our hearts for Canada and a determination to build a more inclusive future.