Island residents seek self-determination within Canadian Confederation
By Patrick Vaillancourt, News Editor
A group of Vancouver Island residents have come together to petition the Province of British Columbia and the federal government to make Vancouver Island Canada’s 11th province.
The group, calling itself Vancouver Island Province, says that their heritage is one of self-determination within Canadian Confederation.
The group has a number of projects, the most notable being a petition to both the provincial and federal governments to recognize Vancouver Island as a new Canadian province.
Their desire for provincial status dates back to 1856, before Canadian Confederation, “when the Legislative Assembly of Vancouver Island represented voters as the first elected parliamentary system West of Upper Canada,” which is present-day Ontario.
The group is looking to gather support quickly as it mulls over the possibility of submitting a referendum question to the provincial government in time for the next provincial election in 2017.
Vancouver Island Province is also pursuing other projects to get their message out, including lobbying the province and the federal government to design a postage stamp that commemorates Vancouver Island as Canada’s first democratic government west of Ontario.
“On September 2, 1863 the Third House of Assembly of Vancouver Island began,” said Scott Akenhead, co-organizer of the group. “The 15 elected Island members sat until August 31, 1866 representing and governing the independent colony of Vancouver Island until unification with the colony of British Columbia.”
Vancouver Island’s traditions of democratic governance came at a pivotal time in history, when Canada’s future as a country was still tentative and undecided. Many argue that the entry of British Columbia into Canadian Confederation could not have occurred as quickly as it did without uniting with Vancouver Island.
Vancouver Island is home to approximately 765,000 residents, which the group notes is “greater than the populations of six Canadian provinces and territories,” and they further note that Vancouver Island has “all of the attributes and prerequisites for becoming a province.”
Laurie Gourlay, another co-organizer of Vancouver Island Province, notes that the next few years will see important milestones for Vancouver Island, including the 150th anniversary of Canadian Confederation in 2017 and the 150th anniversary of BC joining Canadian Confederation in 2021.
“We’d like to see Vancouver Island’s important role as a cornerstone in Canada’s development, and a building block for BC, receive the recognition it deserves,” Gourlay said.
For more information on the petitions, interested persons are encouraged to visit the group’s website at www.viprovince.ca/petitions