Some residents of Canada’s southwesternmost flank, British Columbia’s Vancouver Island, are hoping to make their large, lush land mass the newest province, to accompany the 10 others and the three territories of the Arctic.
This June, two environmental activists, Laurie Gourlay and Scott Akenhead launched something called the Vancouver Island Province Initiative. (Akenhead is president of the Mid-Island Sustainability and Stewardship Initiative, of which Gourlay is also a member.) At the moment, it is merely a website (see it here), but petitions to the federal Parliament in Ottawa and the B.C. provincial parliament in Victoria are already being prepared. They aim to establish the island as its own province by May 16, 2021, which is the 150th anniversary of B.C.’s accession to the Canadian federation.
|... and maybe to Canada’s 11th province, as well.|
Vancouver Island used to be separate, as students of Canadian history know. Before there was a Canada, in 1849, the British Colony of Vancouver Island was created, as part of the resolution of the long-simmering question of who—the Americans or the British—would control the Oregon Country and points north. In 1866 it was merged into the Colony of British Columbia, which was then just the mainland, with a capital at New Westminster, now a suburb of the mainland’s largest city—also called, confusingly, Vancouver. Vancouver Island’s capital, Victoria, became the capital of the new amalgamated colony, which joined the four-year-young independent dominion of Canada in 1871.
|The old Oregon Country (not too dissimilar in its boundaries from today’s “Cascadia”)|
|The flag of Cascadia|
More significantly for its prospects, it would become one of the most left-leaning and environmentally-minded provinces. It would probably take a far more aggressively line in enhancing First Nations sovereignty and protecting natural systems from corporate pillage. In line with that, it would be able to be far more dependent on tourism than on the resource-extraction industries like mining, pipelines, and especially timber that characterize the mainland economy. Vancouverites—people of the City of Vancouver, that is, on the mainland—are likely to fight the secession if it ever becomes a serious concern. Without the Island, the left-leaning city will need to work harder to push progressive policies past the conservative interior of the province. Much of the arid southern interior is ranchland, with a Wild West feel and more in common with Alberta (“the Texas of Canada”) than with the coasts.
|Wet’suwet’en environmental activists in northern B.C. last year|
There is also the question of who else might decide to join the new province. The Queen Charlotte Islands, now renamed Haida Gwaii, whose indigenous Haida nation is often at the forefront of environmental activism, is one candidate. So might be a number of the smaller islands, from the Georgia Strait near Vancouver and Victoria all the way to the large islands of Tsimshian territory to the north.
|Would Haida Gwaii, for example, be better off in B.C.,|
in the Province of Vancouver Island, or even on its own?
|Vancouver Island’s flag when it was a separate colony, from 1849 to 1866.|
|British Columbia’s current flag|
[For those who are wondering, yes, this blog is tied in with my forthcoming book, a sort of encyclopedic atlas to be published by Auslander and Fox under the title Let’s Split! A Complete Guide to Separatist Movements, Independence Struggles, Breakaway Republics, Rebel Provinces, Pseudostates, Puppet States, Tribal Fiefdoms, Micronations, and Do-It-Yourself Countries, from Chiapas to Chechnya and Tibet to Texas. The book, which contains dozens of maps and over 500 flags, is now in the layout phase and should be on shelves, and available on Amazon, by early fall 2014. I will be keeping readers posted of further publication news. Meanwhile, please “like” the book (even though you haven’t read it yet) on Facebook.]