There is a supreme court of British Columbia presided over by a chief justice and five puisne judges, and there are also a number of county courts. In British Columbia the supreme court has jurisdiction in divorce cases, this right having been invested in the colony before confederation.
In 1901 the population was divided by creeds as follows: Church of England, 40,687; Methodist, 25,047; Presbyterian, 34,081; Roman Catholic, 33,639; others, 40,197; not stated, 5003; total, 178,654. The educational system of British Columbia differs slightly from that of other provinces of Canada. There are three classes of schools - common, graded and high - all maintained by the government and all free and undenominational. There is only one college in the province, the "McGill University College of British Columbia" at Vancouver, which is one of the colleges of McGill University, whose chief seat is at Montreal. The schools are controlled by trustees selected by the ratepayers of each school district, and there is a superintendent of education acting under the provincial secretary.
Under the terms of union with Canada, British Columbia receives from the dominion government annually a certain contribution, which in 1905 amounted to $307,076. This, with provincial taxes on real property, personal property, income tax, sales of public land, timber dues, etc., amounted in the year 1905 to $2,920,461. The expenditure for the year was $2,302,417. The gross debt of the province in 1905 was $13,252,097, with assets of $4,463,869, or a net debt of $8,788,228. These assets do not include new legislative buildings or other public works. The income tax is on a sliding scale. In 1899 a fairly close estimate was made of the capital invested in the province, which amounted to $307,385,000 including timber, $100,000,000; railways and telegraphs, $47,500,000; mining plant and smelters, $10,500,000; municipal assessments, $45,000,000; provincial assessments, $51,500,000; in addition to private wealth, $280,000,000. There are branch offices of one or more of the Canadian banks in each of the larger towns.
The discovery of British Columbia was made by the Spaniard Perez in 1774. With Cook's visit the geographical exploration of the coast began in 1778. Vancouver, in 1792-1794, surveyed almost the entire coast of British Columbia with much of that to the north and south, for the British government. The interior, about the same time, was entered by Mackenzie and traders of the N.W. Company, which in 1821 became amalgamated with the Hudson's Bay Company. For the next twenty-eight years the Hudson's Bay Company ruled this immense territory with beneficent despotism. In 1849 Vancouver Island was proclaimed a British colony. In 1858, consequent on the discovery of gold and the large influx of miners, the mainland territory was erected into a colony under the name of British Columbia, and in 1866 this was united with the colony of Vancouver Island, under the same name. In 1871 British Columbia entered the confederation and became part of the Dominion of Canada, sending three senators and six (now seven) members to the House of Commons of the federal parliament.
One of the conditions under which the colony entered the dominion was the speedy construction of the Canadian Pacific railway, and in 1876 the non-fulfilment of this promise and the apparent indifference of the government at Ottawa to the representations of British Columbia created strained relations, which were only ameliorated when the construction of a transcontinental road was begun. In subsequent years the founding of the city of Vancouver by the C.P.R., the establishment of the first Canadian steamship line to China and Japan, and that to Australia, together with the disputes with the United States on the subject of pelagic sealing, and the discovery of the Kootenay and Boundary mining districts, have been the chief events in the history of the province.
Cook's Voyage to the Pacific Ocean (London, 1784); Vancouver, Voyage of Discovery to the Pacific Ocean (London, 1798); H.H. Bancroft's works, vol. xxxii., History of British Columbia (San Francisco, 1887); Begg's History of British Columbia (Toronto, 1894); Gosnell, Year Book (Victoria, British Columbia, 1897 and 1903); Annual Reports British Columbia Board of Trade (Victoria); Annual Reports of Minister of Mines and other Departmental Reports of the Provincial and Dominion Governments; Catalogue of Provincial Museum (Victoria); Reports Geological Survey of Canada (from 1871 to date); Reports of Canadian Pacific (Government) Surveys (1872-1880); Reports of Committee of Brit. Assn. Adv. Science on N.W. Tribes (1884-1895); Lord, Naturalist in Vancouver Island (London, 1866); Bering Sea Arbitration (reprint of letters to Times), (London, 1893); Report of Bering Sea Commission (London, Government, 1892); A. Métin, La Colombie Britannique (Paris, 1908). See also various works of reference under Canada.
(G. M. D.; M. St J.; F. D. A.)