Oh, have I been relishing this moment for a long time. One of the benefits of living in a country as massive and disunited as Canada is that I rarely have to give a shit about any provinces. Here in Ontario it’s kind of assumed that you came from Ontario or from another country because Ontario has a very weak provincial identity by virtue of fact that it sees itself as “Canada writ small”. British Columbia is nothing but provincial swagger, which is perhaps the single most annoying kind of swagger in existence. If Canadian pride is bush-league know-nothing bullshit coupled with smug self-assuredness, imagine how much worse that pride gets when affixed to a province. Cakers are a smug people, but even among the cakers British Columbia is known for how fucking smug it is. Which makes tearing down this province a particular joy. And what better way to start that task than by ripping apart the precious mythology that British Columbia was destined to join Canada?
Fortunately for us, it’s not hard to tear down that myth. The province was cursed to join Canada by the hilariously-named Amor De Cosmos. De Cosmos was an advocate for unifying all of Britain’s North American colonies because he felt humiliated by the idea that he was to “die a tadpole British colonist“, without the same rights and sense of nationhood that those in the United Kingdom had. He was a key proponent of unifying Vancouver Island and British Columbia and pushed for British Columbia’s entry into Confederation. I always love showcasing how little interest there was for a united Canada in the early years. In fact, a petition was sent to Washington, DC in 1869 seeking annexation by the United States. And though British Columbia’s government was not especially democratic, the Confederation-focused forces were crushed in 1868’s elections:
In the November votes, pro-confederation candidates were successful on the mainland but not on Vancouver Island. There they were defeated by an alliance of the governmental and HBC élites, who upheld the status quo, with the European-born businessmen who favoured annexation to the United States rather than to Canada. De Cosmos was himself defeated in Victoria City…The next meeting of the Legislative Council reflected these results. The colonial officials and magistrates who made up the majority joined with Vancouver Island anti-confederates in passing a motion calling confederation “undesirable, even if practicable.” Only the five popular members from the mainland dissented.
But what could save the Confederation project and ensure that British Columbia wouldn’t experience the horrors of being a part of a successful and relevant country? Two things: the realization that the British didn’t give a shit about BC, and Canada basically buying the place with promises of a railway and debt relief. As British interest in defending a distant port in the middle of nowhere faded, BC knew that if it wanted the protection of the Royal Navy (and if it wanted to ever be able to repay its debts) it would have to sign up with the nearest polity of stinking Englishmen. Canada seemed to fit the bill, so BC shacked up with the fat, balding ass that we call Canada.
In typical Canada fashion, the terms of the agreement were pretty loosely followed. The railroad project upon which the deal hinged went so poorly that De Cosmos threatened to seek annexation by the United States if Ottawa wasn’t going to get its shit together. De Cosmos would ultimately be deposed and removed from politics because he dared to suggest that Canadians should act less like Brits and try to instead formulate its own coherent collection of identities. Oh, and he also went insane.
Next up, we’ll watch the relationship between floozie province and sugar daddy country devolve into the slithering form it takes today. Stay tuned!