Grades: 5-12

  • British Columbia History
  • Pre-Confederation Canadian History
  • British North American Colonial History
  • Aboriginal History Pacific Northwest
Key Topics
  • The creation of the Colony of British Columbia
  • The Fraser Canyon and Cariboo Gold Rushes
  • Primary and secondary source analysis
  • Historical causation

Author: Lindsay Gibson
Editors: Roland Case, John Lutz and Jenny Clayton
Historical Researcher: Jenny Clayton, PhD, Department of History, University of Victoria
Developed by: The Critical Thinking Consortium (TC2)

What Were the Real Reasons for Creating the Colony of British Columbia?


On August 2, 1858 the British government passed a law establishing the Crown Colony of British Columbia and offered the governorship of the colony to James Douglas, who was also serving as governor of the Crown Colony of Vancouver Island. In the process of creating the new colony the British government cancelled the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) exclusive trade rights with Aboriginal people on the mainland, and also invalidated the HBC’s ten-year lease to govern, colonize and control trade in the Colony of Vancouver Island.

Historians offer differing views on the factors leading to the British government’s decision to establish the Colony of British Columbia. In this critical thinking lesson, students analyze various textual sources to ascertain the most important causes of this historic event.

Students learn to identify the causes of historical events and then learn about the factors that led to the creation of the Colony of British Columbia in 1858. They analyze various primary and secondary sources for evidence of the importance of four main causes, and then rank order or assign a percentage to indicate the relative importance of each cause. Finally, students write a Colonial Despatch to the British government explaining the most important reasons for establishing a colony on the mainland of British Columbia.

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