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Vancouver, BC: history of the establishment

About Vancouver

Vancouver is a city on the west coast of Canada, the largest settlement in the province of British Columbia, and the third largest in Canada. The city itself has a population of 631,486 (according to the 2016 census). The Greater Vancouver metropolitan area is home to over 2,463,431 people. It is the most ethnically and linguistically diverse city in the country with 52% of its residents speaking a language other than English as their first.

Before Vancouver

The presence of humans in what is now called the Lower Mainland of British Columbia dates back 8-10 thousand years. The first Europeans to explore the area were the Spanish captain Jose Maria Narvaez in 1791 and the British navy captain George Vancouver in 1792. The area was not settled until nearly a century later, in 1862. The city grew rapidly after the completion of the transcontinental Canadian Pacific Railway line from Eastern Canada, allowing for continuous rail service in the late 1880s.

European exploration

As mentioned, Spanish captain Jose Maria Narvaez was the first European to explore the Strait of Georgia in 1791. He landed at Point Gray and entered Burrard Strait. The following year, in 1792, British naval captain George Vancouver met the Spanish expedition of Dionisio Alcala Galiano and Cayetano Valdez y Flores off Point Gray, and together they continued their exploration of the Strait of Georgia. Vancouver also explored Puget Sound near present-day Seattle.

Vancouver, who explored in small boats with his officer Peter Puget, arrived in what is now Vancouver before the Spaniards did. They first landed at what Vancouver later called Point Grey. Puget unofficially called the place Noon Breakfast Point. Simon Fraser was the first European to reach the area by land, descending the river that bears his name in 1808.

European settlement and growth

The first non-local settlement in Vancouver's city limits came about in 1862 at McCleery's Farm, in the area where Southland is now located.

John Dayton opened a small saloon on the shore about a mile west of the sawmill in 1867. His establishment was popular, and soon there was a trampled path between the mill and the saloon - this is today's Alexander Street. In 1870, the colonial government of British Columbia took notice of the growing settlement and sent a surveyor to establish a formal town, named Granville after the British Minister of the Colonies, Lord Granville.

The new town was located in a natural harbor, and for this reason, it was chosen by the Canadian Pacific Railway as the terminus. The transcontinental railroad was commissioned by the Government of Canada under the direction of Prime Minister Sir John A. MacDonald and was one of the conditions of British Columbia's accession to the Confederacy in 1871.

Canadian Pacific Railway President William Van Horn decided Granville was not a good name and strongly recommended that the city be called "Vancouver," in part because the people of Toronto and Montreal knew where Vancouver Island was but had no idea where Granville was.

The city was incorporated under its new name on April 6, 1886. The port of Vancouver gained international importance because of its key position on the All-Red Route, which spanned the British Empire's global trading network.

20th Century

In the 20th century, British Columbia was perhaps the most depression-stricken Canadian province. Although Vancouver escaped bankruptcy, other Lower Mainland cities such as North Vancouver and Burnaby were less fortunate. Vancouver was also the final destination for thousands of unemployed young people who traveled across Canada in search of work, often hopping on freight cars. It was the end of the line, and for years it was the "Mecca of the unemployed" because, as some cynically joked, it was the only city in Canada where one could starve to death before freezing to death.

In 1936 Vancouver held major celebrations, partly to boost civic spirit in the midst of the depression, but also to celebrate the Vancouver anniversary. Mayor McGuire caused much controversy by organizing costly celebrations at a time when the city was on the brink of bankruptcy and civil servants were working on greatly reduced salaries. Nevertheless, he found great support from those who agreed that the celebration would ultimately be good for the city's prosperity.

World War II

World War II brought about major changes in Vancouver. Massive new government spending and military and factory employment provided a much-needed economic boost from the Great Depression of the 1930s. Among the many military goods and armaments produced in the Vancouver area were corvettes for the Royal Canadian Navy.

Anti-aircraft guns in Vancouver, for example, already had a battalion overseas in England after four months and remained in Europe for the rest of the war. In 1942, a few months after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Japanese Canadians were "evacuated" from the West Coast. Americans did the same with their citizens of Japanese descent. Canadians of Japanese descent were placed in temporary detention facilities. Japan did attack the West Coast. A Japanese submarine shelled Estevan Point Lighthouse, and Japanese soldiers captured and held an island in Alaska.

Vancouver Today

Today, Vancouver is one of the most multicultural cities in the world. Both indigenous and descendants of the British Empire, as well as natives of China, Japan, Germany, India, Pakistan, France, Italy, Holland, Greece, Ukraine, Philippines, and other nationalities easily coexist here.

In February and March 2010, Vancouver became the host city for the Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games. As a world-class city, Vancouver continues to create a great international nation, where human spirit and heroism prevail.