BC Day Civic Holiday: Monday August 4th, 2014
The first Monday of August is a Canadian public holiday commonly referred to as Civic Day or the August long weekend. The name “civic” holiday came about because it’s the holiday a city has the authority to declare itself. In the province of British Columbia we proudly call it BC Day. The provincial motto is ‘Splendor sine occasu’ – splendor without diminishment.
Other than BC, Saskatchewan and New Brunswick, the rest of the Canadian provinces and territories do not specifically acknowledge their provincial name. Poor Quebec, Newfoundland and Nunavut do not even have an August long weekend holiday – they will just conduct business as usual.
The August long weekend is probably the busiest day of the year on BC highways as tens of thousands of families go camping, to cottages, begin summer vacations, visit tourist destinations and attend festivals or special events this weekend. There was a time when one thought that travelling on a Thursday night or Friday morning and returning on a Sunday rather than Monday would make a difference – not anymore!
What is British Columbia about?
Where did the name British Columbia come from? “British” was used because BC was a British colony in 1858 and “Columbia” refers to the Columbia River. By 1871 BC was officially incorporated as a Canadian province. As well as being a Canadian province, British Columbia also happens to be a component of the Pacific Northwest, along with the U.S. states of Oregon and Washington.
British Columbia is one big province! It is the third largest province in Canada with a total area of 952,263 square km (367,699 square mi) making it larger than any of the U.S. states (except Alaska), four times bigger than Great Britain and larger than France and Germany combined. Only 30 countries are larger than BC. British Columbia occupies about 10 per cent of Canada’s land surface and Vancouver Island is the largest island on the West Coast of North America. At 32,137 square kilometers long, Vancouver is about the size of Belgium. If anyone wanted to count, there are also about 40,000 islands throughout BC.
Forming the west boundary of BC is the Pacific Ocean with a coastline (including islands) of approximately 27,200 km. BC shares a northern border with the Canadian territories; Yukon and Northwest Territories, as well as an eastern border with Alberta. The Alberta border follows the Rocky Mountains north and south. British Columbia has two international borders; one with the American state of Alaska, and with the continental US states of Washington, Idaho and Montana -“the 49th parallel”.
The Peoples of BC
With a population of 4.6 million people, approximately 75% reside in two major centres – the “Lower Mainland” (Vancouver and surrounding municipalities) and the southern part of Vancouver Island that is home to the provincial capital, Victoria.
British Columbia is home to people of many different origins, cultural traditions, languages, ethnicity, and religions. The top 10 languages spoken in the province are English, Chinese (Cantonese & Mandarin), Punjabi, German, French, Tagalog, Korean, Spanish, Persian, and Italian. BC’s Aboriginal people include approximately 200 First Nations, such as the Gitxsan, Haida, Nisga’a and Squamish.
BC is known around the world for its outstanding beauty and nature. It’s 1,030 provincial parks, conservatories, protected areas and ecological reserves attract more than 20 million visitors each year. Today, close to 15% of British Columbia’s land is protected – more than any other province in the country. BC’s terrain encompasses magestic mountains, ice fields, sunbaked desserts, fertile valleys, alpine meadows, open ocean and inlets, rivers, lakes, dry pine forests and centuries old rainforests.
Seven of Canada’s most incredible National Parks are located in BC and each is a reflection of the natural wonders with which the province has been blessed.
- Glacier National Park
- Gulf Islands National Park Reserve
- Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve and Haida Heritage Site
- Kootenay National Park
- Mount Revelstoke National Park
- Pacific Rim National Park Reserve
- Yoho National Park
Tourism is undoubtedly the province’s most important industry and has surpassed the natural resources sector.
British Columbia has the largest trading port in Canada and supports a large shipping industry year-round through its ice-free, deep-water ports. The province exports a number of mined resources such as copper, coal, gold, silver, zinc, sulphur and asbestos. Other natural resource industries include forestry and fishing. The technology, manufacturing, and agriculture industries are increasing in importance.
BC is the 2nd largest producer of natural gas and the 2nd largest generator of hydroelectricity. This makes BC the provider of some of the lowest power costs in North America.
Did you know this about the province of BC?
- The Hudson Bay Company (The Bay / La Baie in French) is the oldest commercial corporation in North America and one of the oldest in the world. In the early days British Columbia was largely run by the Hudson’s Bay Company based out of the company headquarters at Fort Vancouver on the Columbia River.
- According to institutions like the United Nations, “BC is the best place in the world to learn, live and play”.
- BC receives the largest number of international students in Canada.
- BC is home to more than half of the Canada’s wildlife and fish species.
- The blue and black, smart and cheeky Steller’s Jay is the provincial bird of British Columbia.
- The world famous ghostly white “Spirit Bear” ( Kermode Bear) is the official symbol of the province.
- 1 in 4 North American grizzly bears are found in BC.
- Most of Canada’s bald eagle population is found along the Pacific coast of BC.
- The Pacific Salmon (includes cutthroat trout, pink salmon, Chum salmon, Coho salmon, Steelhead, Sockeye and Chinook salmon) is the BC’s Fish Emblem.
- Mount Fairweather, is one of the world’s highest coastal mountains, and shares our border with Alaska.
- BC is the only province in Canada to boast a “West Coast Special,” which means a person can ski and golf in the same day.
- The Western Red Cedar is the provincial tree but the Arbutus tree, found nowhere else in Canada, is the emblem of the south coast.
- BC has the largest trees in Canada and the “The Hanging Garden Tree” on Meares Island is estimated to be between 1,500 and 2,000 years old.
- Over eight times the height of Niagara, the Della Falls is the highest waterfall in Canada at 440 metres (about 1,444 feet)
- BC is one of the top three cranberry and blueberry producing regions in the world.
Last but not least – BC is referred to as “Hollywood North” and, due to the province’s ecological diversity, is the 3rd largest film and television production centre in North America (after New York and Los Angeles). Today the film industry is a $1.2 billion industry.
BC Day Events in Vancouver
- Vancouver Pride Parade: This Sunday event on the BC Day weekend paints Vancouver’s West End in rainbow colors. More than 650,000 people march in and watch the parade, which starts on Robson Street, and then travels along Denman and Davie streets.
- Powell Street Festival in Oppenheimer Park: This Vancouver festival celebrates Japanese-Canadian culture, with music, crafts, and performances.
BC Day Events in Squamish
- Squamish Days Festival: Crowds gather for old-fashioned but fascinating events dubbed logger sports — like axe throwing, tree climbing, and hand bucking. There’s also a town parade and music performances.
BC Day Events in Whistler
- BC Day Weekend includes Canadian National BBQ Championships: Burgers, chili, beef brisket, chicken, and ribs — this barbecue competition has too many tasty eats to name, let alone sample! It’s like a summer backyard barbecue with the ski village.
Lonely Planet’s take on British Columbia is worth a peak.