BC Day, or British Columbia Day, is a public holiday celebrated in the province of British Columbia. It falls on the first Monday in August and celebrates the pioneering spirit, history and diverse cultural heritage of the province.

The history of BC Day dates back to 1974 when it was first introduced by the Attorney General of the time, Alex Macdonald. He proposed the holiday as a way to recognize and celebrate the unique culture and achievements of British Columbia, as well as to provide a long weekend during the summer months for the citizens of the province to enjoy.

Before BC Day was officially recognized, British Columbia had been one of the few provinces in Canada without a civic holiday in August. The proposal was embraced by the government, and BC Day was celebrated for the first time on August 4, 1974.

The celebration of BC Day on the first Monday of August, also recalls the Westminster Parliament’s declaration of the Crown Colony of British Columbia on Monday, August 2, 1858.

Since then, the BC Day holiday has become a time for people in the province to enjoy recreational activities, explore the beautiful landscapes, and reflect on the rich history and diverse culture that make British Columbia unique. Many communities host special events, parades and festivals to commemorate the day.

History of British Columbia

The history of British Columbia spans thousands of years. Prior to European colonization, the lands encompassing present-day British Columbia were inhabited for millennia by a number of First Nations. Archaeological finds in British Columbia have been dated to as early as 13,543 years ago.

European explorers began to visit the British Columbia area in the 1770s, with Spanish explorers visiting by ship and the Hudson’s Bay Company expanding to the west of the Rocky Mountains and setting up posts for trading fur and other goods. In 1849, Vancouver Island was colonized by the British, and soon after, the Gold Rush attracted tens of thousands of people to the interior of British Columbia. BC was a British colony until 1871, when it joined Canada. In 1885, the Canadian Pacific Railway was completed, opening the country from east to west. The First Nations peoples have lived and flourished in British Columbia for thousands of years, and their art, culture, languages, festivals and history are an important part of British Columbia’s cultural make-up. Everywhere you travel in British Columbia, you will see Indigenous names for towns, cities, rivers, lakes, mountains and fjords.

British Columbia today is a diverse and cosmopolitan province, drawing on a plethora of cultural influences from its British Canadian, European, and Asian diasporas, as well as the Indigenous population. Indigenous Canadians constitute about 6% of the province’s total population. First Nations peoples in present-day British Columbia numbered about 80,000 at the time of their initial contact with white European explorers.

Things to do this BC Day long weekend

There are several festivals in Vancouver coinciding with the BC Day long weekend.

The annual Vancouver Pride Parade takes place on Sunday, Aug. 6. The popular parade features more than 100 local community groups, non-profit organizations, businesses and more showcasing their support for the 2SLGBTQAI+ communities. For more information on the parade and other Vancouver Pride Festival events, visit vancouverpride.ca.

The 47th annual Powell Street Festival, which celebrates Japanese-Canadian culture in historic Paueru Gai (the old Japantown) runs Aug. 5 and 6. The festival is free to attend and there will be Japanese cultural displays, food, martial art demonstrations, Taiko drumming and live music performances. For more information, see powellstreetfestival.com.

The Vancouver Mural Festival, which runs from Aug. 4 to 13, is hosting special events this BC Day long weekend. The Make Good Party is a free two-day market on Aug. 5 and 6 at Main Street and 7th Avenue with DJs, local artists, breweries and food trucks. And Astro Alley, a street art and graffiti mural production takes place on the grounds behind Astro Studio at 163 West 4th from Aug. 5 to 7. For more information, see vanmuralfest.ca.

Published on August 4, 2023.