1. Urban Settlement in British Columbia



The  historical background of urbanization of British Columbia dates back to the first settlements by First Nations communities approximately 5,000 years ago. The establishment of settlements along the coast and rivers of BC served as important agriculture and trade routes. At the start of the 18th century the First Nations landscape began to change as a result of the British occupation and colonial domination in the BC region. Cities such as Victoria became prominent trading and military posts and Victoria was established as the first colonial city in BC. Economic drivers such as forestry, trapping, fishing and gold led to a more rapid urbanization in 1858.

The rise of immigration, as a result of building the Canadian Pacific Railway mostly by Chinese workers, began to change the cultural composition of British Columbia. The rise in Chinese immigration resulted in the establishment of Chinatowns in BC, which reflected the view that as visible minorities, the Chinese were inferior and should therefore live apart. Once the railway was completed in 1881 the population of BC doubled in a 10-year period (1881-1891).

The development of the Canadian Pacific Railway also spurred a transportation boom that resulted in a demographic change in outlying community populations. The urbanization in the 20th century saw Revelstoke and Kamloops gaining population. As the railway was a source for transporting people and goods across British Columbia, there was then an outward migration from BC urban centres through World War II. During the postwar economic boom of the 1950s and up through the 1970s, there was also the rise in shipbuilding in the Burrard Inlet.

The economic and population booms that occurred in interior cities across British Columbia resulted in the need for several infrastructure expansion projects, such as BC Ferries and road and airport expansion. Growing global transportation technologies created a boom in the oil and natural gas industries throughout the 1970s and early 1980s. However, with an economic shrinkage of 2.9% in 1982, BC began to increase its efforts in urban redevelopment, especially with the Expo ’86 in Vancouver.

A “global sense of place” is a way of viewing a city as globalized or worldly precisely because of its relationship to other places and the mobile processes that are ongoing in places. Likewise, a global sense of place means that the territoriality, or what makes a place unique, is able to be understood because other places are different.

A global sense of place characterizes places in three ways:

  1. Places have multiple identities and meanings. The meaning is dependent on the people who are experiencing a place.
  2. Places are more than physical locations; they are made up of processes.
  3. Places are not static; they are ongoing and ever changing because of relationships to other places.

The two case studies highlight the urban processes and considerations involved in sustainable development. The first case study, Vancouver: The Greenest City?questions the true urban sustainable development of Vancouver through the examples of Project 200 and the Georgia and Dunsmuir Viaducts removal. The second case study, Dockside Green, discusses the urban sustainability of developing a LEED neighbourhood and the considerations involved in the development, such as the environmental impact of developing along the Gorge Waterway as well as the socio-economic impact of developing social housing units that have limited social inclusion.


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British Columbia in a Global Context Copyright © 2014 by Geography Open Textbook Collective is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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