British Columbia also commonly referred to by its initials BC, is a province located on the west coast of Canada. British Columbia is also a component of the Pacific Northwest and the Cascadia bioregion, along with the US states of Idaho, Oregon, Washington and Alaska. The province’s name was chosen in 1858 by members of the Hudson’s Bay Company. In 1871, it became the sixth province of Canada. Its Latin motto is Splendor sine occasu (“Splendour without Diminishment”).

The capital of British Columbia is Victoria, the fifteenth-largest metropolitan region in Canada, named for the Queen who created the Colony of British Columbia. The largest city is Vancouver, the third-largest metropolitan area in Canada, the largest in Western Canada, and the second-largest in the Pacific Northwest. In October 2013, British Columbia had an estimated population of 4,606,371 (about 2.5 million of whom were in Greater Vancouver). The province is currently governed by the BC Liberal Party, led by Premier Christy Clark, who became leader as a result of a leadership convention vote on February 26, 2011, and who led her party to an election victory on May 14, 2013.

British Columbia evolved from British possessions that were established in what is now British Columbia by 1871. First Nations, the original inhabitants of the land, have a history of at least 10,000 years in the area. Today there are few treaties and the question of Aboriginal Title, long ignored, has become a legal and political question of frequent debate as a result of recent court actions. Notably, the Tsilhqot’in Nation has established Aboriginal title to a portion of their territory, as a result of the recent Supreme Court of Canada decision (Tsilhqot’in Nation v. British Columbia).

British Columbia’s economy is largely resource-based. It is the endpoint of transcontinental railways, and the site of major Pacific ports that enable international trade. Though less than 5% of its vast 944,735 km2 (364,764 sq mi) land is arable, the province is agriculturally rich, (particularly in the Fraser and Okanagan valleys), because of milder weather near the coast and in certain sheltered southern valleys. Its climate encourages outdoor recreation and tourism, though its economic mainstay has long been resource extraction, principally logging, farming, and mining. Vancouver, the province’s largest city and metropolitan area, also serves as the headquarters of many western-based natural resource companies. It also benefits from a strong housing market and a per capita income well above the national average. While the coast of British Columbia and certain valleys in the south-central part of the province have mild weather, the majority of its land mass experiences a cold-winter-temperate climate similar to that of the rest of Canada. The Northern Interior region has a subarctic climate with very cold winters. The climate of Vancouver is by far the mildest winter climate of the major Canadian cities, with nighttime January temperatures averaging above the freezing point.

British Columbia contains seven of Canada’s national parks:

  • 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