The first Monday of August is a Canadian public holiday and in the province of British Columbia we proudly call it BC Day.
On a national basis this holiday is 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.
The BC Day Holiday Weekend
Other than BC, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick, the rest of the Canadian provinces and territories do not specifically acknowledge their provincial name for this holiday weekend. 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, go on 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!
BC Day in “God’s Country”
Situated on the far west coast of Canada, British Columbia is the third largest Canadian province. We have three main mountain ranges and two-thirds of the province is covered in forest. It has been a devastating year with the drought and massive forest fires. Before heading out on the highways it makes sense to check the conditions.
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. In 1871 BC was officially incorporated as a Canadian province. We are also a member of the Pacific Northwest, along with the U.S. States of Oregon and Washington.
British Columbia is one big province! With a total area of 952,263 square km (367,699 square mile) that makes us 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 in the world are larger than BC. British Columbia. BC 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 Island is about the size of Belgium. (If anyone wants to count, we have about 40,000 islands throughout BC and our Pacific Ocean coastline (including islands) is approximately 27,200 km.)
BC shares a northern border with the Canadian territories; Yukon and Northwest Territories, and an eastern border with Alberta. (Our Alberta border follows the Rocky Mountains north and south.) British Columbia also 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”. Then of course there is Point Roberts, Washington – Americans have to drive through Canada to get there!
A Bird’s Eye View of Beautiful BC
BC’s Motto – ‘Splendor Sine Occasu’ – Splendor without Diminishment
BC’s #1 Natural Resource – Our People
With a population of just under 4.7 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. Its 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 majestic mountains, ice fields, sunbaked deserts, 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.
Tourism is undoubtedly the province’s most important industry and over the last few years has surpassed the natural resources sector. Having said that, BC continues to be 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.
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, sulfur and asbestos. Other natural resource industries include forestry and fishing. The technology, manufacturing, and agriculture industries are increasing in importance.
British Columbia is frequently referred to as (the original) “Hollywood North”. Due to the province’s ecological diversity, BC is the 3rd largest film and television production centre in North America (after New York and Los Angeles). Today television and film is a $1.2 billion industry and is a significant producer of revenue for the province of BC.
BC Day – Facts About The Great Province
- 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 that can boast the “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.
- Celebration of Light Fireworks Competition: The 25th Anniversary wraps up on Saturday, August 1st
- Vancouver Pride Parade: This will be the 37th annual event on the BC Day weekend. 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, Vancouver: This year is the 39th annual festival celebrating Japanese-Canadian culture, with music, crafts, and performances.
- Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival, June – September: Enjoy Shakespeare against a natural backdrop of sea, sky and mountains.
- The Fair – Pacific National Exhibition, August – September: A variety of concerts, folk and country music, agricultural exhibitions and an amusement park highlight this family fair.
- Harmony Arts Festival: Held in West Vancouver: This festival is a popular community-based celebration of music, performance, cinema and art that celebrates the best of the North Shore, regional and national performing, visual and culinary arts.
- Whiterock Sea Festival: 28th Annual Torchlight Parade
- Canada Day 2015 Celebrations in Metro Vancouver
- TripAdvisor’s designated World’s Best Park: Stanley Park
- University of BC Museum of Anthropology (MOA) : City before City
- 14 Awesome local Vancouver Beaches: With this year’s major heat wave, Vancouverites can cool off at the Beach
- Squamish Days Festival: Crowds gather for old-fashioned, but fascinating events dubbed logger sports — like an ax throwing, tree climbing, and hand bucking. There’s also a town parade and music performances.
- BC Day Weekend in Whistler: 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.
- Parks and Trails in BC
- 10 of the Best Road Trips to Take From Vancouver
- Meet BC’s Dinosaurs
- Royal Museum of BC – Victoria, BC: Learn about the history of BC
- Lonely Planet offers some suggestions for seeing Beautiful British Columbia!