I lived in British Columbia for six years. The province is flat out awesome! It is, however, a little different than the rest of Canada. Growing up in Saskatchewan, we used to have one or maybe two television channels on a good day. Everything seemed to happen outside of Saskatchewan in places like Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver. Furthermore, our roads and railways always seemed to me to be taking everything outside of Saskatchewan to far off destinations. As a result, I, like many other residents of Saskatchewan, saw myself as Canadian first, and a Saskatchewanian second. I learned very quickly that this was not the case in British Columbia. People from British Columbia are British Columbian first.
Even just a quick glance at the province shows that British Columbia is a bit different than its provincial brothers to the east. For one, it is separated from the rest of Canada by the mountains. It has more geographic features and climate variation than perhaps the rest of Canada combined. Its economy and trade patterns are different. British Columbia also has differences when it comes to history.
First Nations people inhabited British Columbia first. That is no different. There is, however, this Spanish element to British Columbia that the rest of Canada does not have. Spanish explorers explored the coast of British Columbia well before Alexander Mackenzie got scared off by the Heiltsuk Nation and painted his name on a rock in 1793. Even the fur trade was based on sea otter pelts and not beaver like the rest of Canada.
British Columbia is very much like the rest of Canada, in that it came from what was left over from the United States. At first part of British North America left after the American Revolution, British Columbia and the rest of the great North-West became of interest to American president James Polk in 1844. Basically, the United States became really good at expanding. The 1800s was a great time to be an American and there was this view that it was just simply a natural progression that all of North America would eventually be the United States. This was known as Manifest Destiny and it is an idea that a few historians and economists would suggest has never really died. In 1844, however, it wasn’t just an idea, it was a belief that many Americans, including Polk, felt should be acted upon. He was even willing to go to war over it. His battle cry was “54’40 or fight”. This meant that James Polk wanted the United States to extend to the 54th parallel, not the present day 49th parallel. If this were to happen in present day Canada, the border would be north of places like Edmonton, Prince George and Saskatoon and about where Smithers, Slave Lake and La Ronge are located. Essentially 98% of Canada’s population would be American.
Needless to say, this never happened. Great Britain worked out a deal with the United States that established the 49th parallel as the border between the United States and Canada. A few years later in 1858, a gold rush in the Fraser Valley brought many people to British Columbia (it wasn’t known as British Columbia yet) and it would later join Canada as a full province in 1871.
Here is a brief video summary: