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British Columbia Day in Canada is the name for the first Monday in August when residents of British Columbia celebrate their local heritage. In other Canadian provinces, the same day is known by different names unique to their respective areas, for example, “George Hamilton Day” in Hamilton, Ontario, and “Saskatchewan Day” in the province of that name. British Columbia Day recalls explorer James Douglas’ discovery of the southernmost tip of Vancouver Island, the site of the current city of Victoria, and the eventual announcement by the British that the region would become the colony called British Columbia. Similarly, other provinces focus on their particular items of culture, history, and political development.
All across Canada, the day is marked by parades, festivals, and other public gatherings, many of which are themed. As a primary example, British Columbia offers the Anime Revolution, the Vancouver Pride Parade, and the Powell Street Festival (a celebration of Asian-Canadian heritage).
History of British Columbia Day
Despite its not being a Canadian federal government holiday like Christmas or Good Friday (though it was recognized as “legal” in 1996), most residents do get British Columbia Day (or its equivalent in their region) off from work. The seeds for the traditional celebration becoming a recognized holiday were sown in 1969 when the government of Ontario named the first Monday in August “Simcoe Day” in honor of anti-slavery figure John Graves Simcoe. Before long (1974 in British Columbia), other territorial governments heard proposals from prominent politicians and affirmed that they should celebrate their honorable histories in an official capacity.
Canadians often refer to the holiday as one of the “stats” (statutory holidays), or “publics,” which, again, differ in the level of legal importance from territory to territory, and municipality to municipality. But the day does fall in the middle of the summer season, and not too many Canadians complain about a chance to plan a long weekend and make a fun family outing out of British Columbia Day!
British Columbia Day timeline
James Cook, an English traveller, first sets foot in British Columbia, thereby paving the way for British rule in the region.
James Douglas establishes Victoria on Vancouver Island (in what would become British Columbia) as a Hudson’s Bay Company trading port, with an embattlement called Fort Albert on the eastern side of the inlet that is later renamed Fort Victoria after the Queen of England.
After news of a gold rush in the region reaches the ears of British royalty and Parliament, British Columbia is made a colony.
Surrey Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) Ernie Hall, a member of the New Democratic Party, introduces provincial legislation to institute British Columbia Day as an official holiday.
The British Columbia Day Act (RSB 1996, c34) is passed, getting the holiday indelibly “on the books” in Canada as a whole.
British Columbia Day FAQs
Is British Columbia Day a statutory holiday?
Yes, it is one of five nationwide provincial holidays in British Columbia.
Why do we celebrate British Columbia Day?
British Columbia Day, celebrated on the first Monday of August every year, is meant to recognize the contributions of such people in shaping the social, cultural, and political landscape of the region.
Is November 11 a holiday in Canada?
November 11 is Remembrance Day and is a statutory holiday in Canada.
HOW TO CELEBRATE BRITISH COLUMBIA DAY
Attend a street fair or festival
Today is a great day for trying new foods, meeting new friends, perhaps taking in a concert or play from a genre you’ve been unfamiliar with, all in connection with your Canadian province or territory’s culture and heritage. The more open your mind, the more you’ll learn and enjoy!
Embrace the pioneering spirit
British Columbia Day came about to recognize the efforts of pioneers that shaped the region. Take inspiration and become a pioneer yourself, campaigning for a cause you identify with, or exploring a new part of your city, or even building a prototype of a nifty invention you’ve been thinking about.
Read up on your region’s history
Be an active part of your city’s living history. Look up and read some relevant articles or watch a documentary on a figure from your province’s history. If you’re planning on participating in events for British Columbia Day, you’ll go armed with facts your friends might not know!
FIVE AMAZING FACTS ABOUT VANCOUVER
A city of importance
Population-wise, Vancouver is the third-largest metropolitan area in Canada, and the fifth-most densely populated.
Fire in the sky
The yearly four-night “Celebration of Light” takes place in Vancouver, where three of the best fireworks companies in the world are each given one night to show off their best pyrotechnics, with all three manufacturers coming together on the fourth night for an incredible display set to music.
“It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity”
Vancouver is one of the warmest and wettest cities in Canada, its climate being classified as “oceanic” or “marine west coast” according to the Köppel classification system, and very nearly equivalent to the “Mediterranean climate” warm-summer class.
Opening up west-coast trade
After the Panama Canal was completed, Vancouver became internationally significant as a trading port, and in fact, still holds the distinction of being the busiest seaport in Canada.
Presaging the internet
Seminal cyberpunk author William Gibson, credited with coining the term “cyberspace” in his fiction from the 1980s, lives with his wife in Vancouver.
WHY WE LOVE BRITISH COLUMBIA DAY
There are festivals galore
Right around British Columbia Day, plenty of street fairs and cultural activities take place. From a street dance festival to a Caribbean festival, there are many opportunities to join in the revelry of the occasion.
It’s at the height of summer
Summertime is the perfect time to enjoy British Columbia's scenic beauty, from rugged coastlines to scenic mountain hiking trails. The fact that British Columbia Day falls smack in the middle of the summer season means you can always plan that adventurous weekend getaway.
It celebrates the diverse population of British Columbia
British Columbia is a melting pot of cultures, and the holiday recognizes the various ethnicities that make the region such a vibrant place. In fact, just for one example, there's a dedicated festival for anime lovers in Vancouver. Other celebrations are just as specifically targeted, and all are a good time!
British Columbia Day dates