Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

Becoming British Columbia: A Population History

Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

Becoming British Columbia: A Population History

Article excerpt

John Douglas Belshaw, Becoming British Columbia: A Population History (Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 2009), 288pp. Cased. $85. ISBN 978-0-7748- 1545-1. Paper. $32.95. ISBN 978-0-7748-1546-8.

In this very accessible monograph, Belshaw convincingly shows that significant aspects of the demographic history of British Columbia need to be revised. He also uses demography to challenge various conventional wisdoms. For example, he argues that demands beginning in the 1920s for the government to assume some of the burden of dependency can be viewed outside of the realm of ideological development and social reform. These demands were primarily driven by demographic change.

British Columbia was founded as a 'white man's province'. Indeed, for much of the nineteenth century a pronounced gender imbalance meant it was almost literally a man's province. On the other hand, in 1884 nearly a quarter of the provincial population was Chinese and they were almost as numerous as white Canadians. The province's official ideology led to the curtailment of Asian immigration in favour of white British settlers. It was not until the post-Second World War era that Asian immigrants were officially welcome again in the province. From the 1970s onwards, a growing proportion of immigration in British Columbia was Asian and in particular Chinese.

Belshaw's chapter on the pre-contact and early post-contact First Nations in British Columbia is particularly iconoclastic. He outlines the staggering range of estimates for the pre-contact indigenous population of British Columbia, Canada, and North America as a whole. They range from 75,000 to 1,612,622. Belshaw argues that the estimates from the higher end of the range are based on extremely flimsy and unsound foundations. …

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