Recent Pemberton Museum NewsShare
July 20th : BC Joins the Confederation of Canada.
On this day in history, July 20th, 1871, British Columbia joined the confederation of Canada. Before it joined Canada, BC was so remote that mail going east had to carry an American stamp and be routed through San Fransisco. Although large and rich in resources, the population was small, 11,000 Europeans and 27,000 natives. The gold rush of 1858 brought thousands of settlers and huge growth to the colonies. Prior to this, fur trading had been the dominant industry. After the rush, gold mining became the predominant economic activity. Coal mining, forestry, and fishing also emerged during this period, but none rivaled gold. By the mid 1860’s, the gold rush collapsed, and BC sunk into a recession. This recession, combined with a large public debt and political unrest helped to encourage British Columbia to join Canada.
One of the biggest supporters of confederation was newspaper publisher Amor de Cosmos. He believed BC should join confederation in order to obtain responsible government. He later became premier of the province in 1873.
One of the Terms of Union negotiated by the two governments included a commitment to build a railway connecting BC to the railway system of Canada within 10 years. This provoked a lot of opposition from the east because of the mass expense, and because most of the land between BC and Ontario was barely populated. This issue became a major problem between BC and the federal government. Although Canada had promised to start the project within 2 years, and complete it within 10, by 1878 it had barely begun. It was Amor de Cosmos who rose in the House of commons in May of 1878, announcing that British Columbia would seek annexation to the United States if progress was not made more quickly. The growing demand for action resulted in the creation of the Canadian Pacific Railway Company. The railway was finally finished November 7, 1885, 5 years behind schedule.