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British Columbia History

The Vancouver Public Library has extensive primary and secondary resources on the history of British Columbia. This guide is designed to help you begin your research on this topic and use library resources effectively.


In Sept. 1916, British Columbia held a referendum asking whether women should be allowed to vote.

The 1900's were a remarkable period of social change in British Columbia. Fishing, farming, forestry and mining dominated economic activity. It was also a troubled period of racial and social divisions, most notable the residential school system, race riots, and the internment of Canadian born citizens of Japanese descent.
The 1900's also marked a very colourful political period for the citizens of B.C. Struggles for civil rights were hard fought. British Columbians participated in and witnessed two world wars. It was also a period of outstanding achievement. Many disenfranchised groups finally won the right to vote. Terry Fox embarked upon his Marathon of Hope, and Vancouver hosted Expo 86.
  • In 1903, a formal agreement was signed to define the border between Alaska and British Columbia.
  • In 1907, an anti-immigration group called the Asiatic Exclusion League marched through Vancouver's Chinatown, leaving much damage in their wake. The group clashed with Japanese and Chinese business owners. A riot ensued.
  • In 1914, the Komagata Maru sailed from Hong Kong to Vancouver with 376 passengers from the Punjab region of India. Despite the passengers being British subjects, many who had served in the British army, the ship was forced to return to India with 352 passengers aboard.
  • In 1917, after a successful referendum, women of British Columbia won the right to vote.
  • In 1941, after the bombing of Pearl Harbour, British Columbia citizens of Japanese descent were sent to camps in the Interior, many losing their homes, businesses and livelihoods.
  • In 1971, the Trans-Canada Highway traversing Canada from St. John's, Newfoundland to Victoria, B.C. was completed.
  • In 1980, Terry Fox embarked upon his Marathon of Hope to raise awareness and money for cancer research.
  • In 1986, Vancouver hosted the 1986 World Exposition, transforming the city forever.

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