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—  City  —
City of Vancouver
Downtown Vancouver as seen from the southern shore of False Creek


Coat of arms

Motto: "By Sea, Land, and Air We Prosper"
Location of Vancouver within the Greater Vancouver Regional District in British Columbia, Canada
Coordinates: 49°15′N 123°6′W / 49.25°N 123.1°W / 49.25; -123.1
Country  Canada
Province  British Columbia
Region Lower Mainland
Regional District Metro Vancouver
Incorporated 1886
 - Mayor Gregor Robertson (Vision Vancouver)
 - City Council
 - City 114.67 km2 (44.3 sq mi)
 - Metro 2,878.52 km2 (1,111.4 sq mi)
Elevation 2 m (7 ft)
Population (2006 Census)[1]
 - City 578,041 (8th)
 Density 5,335/km2 (13,817.6/sq mi)
 Metro 2,116,581 (3rd)
 - Demonym Vancouverite
Time zone PST (UTC−8)
 - Summer (DST) PDT (UTC−7)
Postal code span V5K to V6Z
Area code(s) 604, 778
NTS Map 092G03
Website City of Vancouver

Vancouver (pronounced /vænˈkuːvər/) is a coastal city located in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia, Canada. It is named for British Captain George Vancouver, who explored the area in the 1790s. The name Vancouver itself originates from the Dutch "van Coevorden", denoting somebody from Coevorden, a city in the Netherlands.[2]

The largest metropolitan area in Western Canada, Vancouver ranks third largest in the country and the city proper ranks eighth.[3][4] According to the 2006 census Vancouver had a population of just over 578,000[1] and its Census Metropolitan Area exceeded 2.1 million people.[1] Its residents are ethnically and linguistically diverse; 52% do not speak English as their first language.[5][6]

Logging sawmills established in 1867 in the area known as Gastown became the nucleus around which the townsite grew, and Vancouver was incorporated as a city in 1886. By 1887, the transcontinental railway was extended to the city to take advantage of its large natural seaport, which soon became a vital link in a trade route between the Orient, Eastern Canada, and London.[7][8] The Port Metro Vancouver is now the busiest and largest in Canada, as well as the fourth largest port (by tonnage) in North America.[9] While forestry remains its largest industry, Vancouver is well known as an urban centre surrounded by nature, making tourism its second largest industry.[10] It also is the third largest film production centre in North America after Los Angeles and New York City, earning it the nickname Hollywood North.[11][12]

Vancouver has ranked highly in worldwide "livable city" rankings for more than a decade according to business magazine assessments.[13][14] It has hosted many international conferences and events, including the 1976 United Nations Conference on Human Settlements and the 1986 World Exposition on Transportation and Communication. The 2010 Winter Olympics and 2010 Winter Paralympics were held in Vancouver and nearby Whistler, a resort community 125 km (78 miles) north of the city.[15]




Indigenous peoples and European exploration

Archaeological records indicate the presence of Aboriginal people in the Vancouver area from 8,000 to 10,000 years ago.[16][17] The city is located in the traditional territories of Skwxwú7mesh, Xwméthkwyiem, and Tseil-waututh peoples of the Coast Salish group.[18] They had villages in various parts of present-day Vancouver, such as Stanley Park, False Creek, Kitsilano, Point Grey and near the mouth of the Fraser River.[17]

Men standing and sitting around two tables, facing the camera. A large tent behind them has a wooden sign that reads "City Hall"
A portrait of the first Vancouver City Council meeting after the 1886 fire. The tent shown was on the east side of the 100 block Carrall.[19]

The first European to explore the coastline of present-day Point Grey and parts of Burrard Inlet was José María Narváez of Spain, in 1791, although Samuel Bawlf contends that Francis Drake may have visited the area in 1579.[20] George Vancouver explored the inner harbour of Burrard Inlet in 1792 and gave various places British names.[21]

The explorer and North West Company trader Simon Fraser and his crew were the first known Europeans to set foot on the site of the present-day city. In 1808, they travelled from the east down the Fraser River, perhaps as far as Point Grey, near the University of British Columbia.[22]

Early growth

The Fraser Gold Rush of 1858 brought over 25,000 men, mainly from California, to nearby New Westminster (founded February 14, 1859) on the Fraser River, on their way to the BC interior, bypassing what would become Vancouver.[23][24][25] Vancouver is among British Columbia's youngest cities;[26] the first European settlement in what is now Vancouver was not until 1862 at McLeery's Farm on the Fraser River, just east of the ancient village of Musqueam in what is now Marpole. A sawmill established at Moodyville (now the City of North Vancouver) in 1863, began the city's long relationship with logging. It was quickly followed by mills owned by Captain Edward Stamp on the south shore of the inlet. Stamp, who had begun lumbering in the Port Alberni area, first attempted to run a mill at Brockton Point, but difficult currents and reefs forced the relocation of the operation to a point near the foot of Gore Street. This mill, known as the Hastings Mill, became the nucleus around which Vancouver formed. The mill's central role in the city waned after the arrival of the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) in the 1880s. It nevertheless remained important to the local economy until it closed in the 1920s.[27]

The settlement which came to be called Gastown grew up quickly around the original makeshift tavern established by "Gassy" Jack Deighton in 1867 on the edge of the Hastings Mill property.[26][28] In 1870, the colonial government surveyed the settlement and laid out a townsite, renamed "Granville" in honour of the then-British Secretary of State for the Colonies, Lord Granville. This site, with its natural harbour, was eventually selected as the terminus for the Canadian Pacific Railway to the disappointment of Port Moody, New Westminster and Victoria, all of which had vied to be the railhead. A railway was among the inducements for British Columbia to join the Confederation in 1871, but the Pacific Scandal and arguments over the use of Chinese labour delayed construction until the 1880s.[29]

Black-and-white illustration of Vancouver. Large ships fill the harbor in the south; the town, filling the center of the map, is bounded by trees on the left and top sides. Bridges span the middle-top body of water.
Panorama of Vancouver, 1898.


The City of Vancouver was incorporated on 6 April 1886, the same year that the first transcontinental train arrived. CPR president William Van Horne arrived in Port Moody to establish the CPR terminus recommended by Henry John Cambie, and gave the city its name in honour of George Vancouver.[26] The Great Vancouver Fire on 13 June 1886, razed the entire city. The Vancouver Fire Department was established that year and the city quickly rebuilt.[27] Vancouver's population grew from a settlement of 1,000 people in 1881 to over 20,000 by the turn of the century and 100,000 by 1911.[30]

Vancouver merchants outfitted prospectors bound for the Klondike Gold Rush in 1898.[23] One of those merchants, Charles Woodward, had opened the first Woodward's store at what is now Georgia and Main Streets in 1892 and, along with Spencer's and the Hudson's Bay department stores, formed the core of the city's retail sector for decades.[31]

The economy of early Vancouver was dominated by large companies such as the CPR, which provided capital for the rapid development of the new city. While some manufacturing did develop, natural resources became the basis for Vancouver's economy. The resource sector was initially based on logging and later on exports moving through the seaport, where commercial traffic constituted the largest economic sector in Vancouver by the 1930s.[32]

20th century

The dominance of the economy by big business was accompanied by an often militant labour movement. The first major sympathy strike was in 1903 when railway employees struck against the CPR for union recognition. Labour leader Frank Rogers was killed by CPR police while picketing at the docks, becoming the movement's first martyr in British Columbia.[33] The rise of industrial tensions throughout the province led to Canada's first general strike in 1918, at the Cumberland coal mines on Vancouver Island.[34] Following a lull in the 1920s, the strike wave peaked in 1935 when unemployed men flooded the city to protest conditions in the relief camps run by the military in remote areas throughout the province.[35][36] After two tense months of daily and disruptive protesting, the relief camp strikers decided to take their grievances to the federal government and embarked on the On-to-Ottawa Trek,[36] but their protest was put down by force. The workers were arrested near Mission and interned in work camps for the duration of the Depression.[37]

Other social movements, such as the first-wave feminist, moral reform, and temperance movements were also influential in Vancouver's development. Mary Ellen Smith, a Vancouver suffragist and prohibitionist, became the first woman elected to a provincial legislature in Canada in 1918.[38] Alcohol prohibition began in the First World War and lasted until 1921, when the provincial government established control over alcohol sales, a practice still in place today.[39] Canada's first drug law came about following an inquiry conducted by the federal Minister of Labour and future Prime Minister, William Lyon Mackenzie King. King was sent to investigate damages claims resulting from a riot when the Asiatic Exclusion League led a rampage through Chinatown and Japantown. Two of the claimants were opium manufacturers, and after further investigation, King found that white women were reportedly frequenting opium dens as well as Chinese men. A federal law banning the manufacture, sale, and importation of opium for non-medicinal purposes was soon passed based on these revelations.[40]

Amalgamation with Point Grey and South Vancouver gave the city its final contours not long before it became the third largest metropolis in the country. As of 1 January 1929, the population of the enlarged Vancouver was 228,193 and it filled the entire peninsula between the Burrard Inlet and the Fraser River.[41]


Officially designated neighbourhoods of Vancouver (local and urban usage varies)

Located on the Burrard Peninsula, Vancouver lies between Burrard Inlet to the north and the Fraser River to the south. The Strait of Georgia, to the west, is shielded from the Pacific Ocean by Vancouver Island. The city has an area of 114 km2 (44 sq mi), including both flat and hilly ground, and is in the Pacific Time Zone (UTC−8) and the Pacific Maritime Ecozone.[42] Until the city's naming in 1885, "Vancouver" referred to Vancouver Island, and it remains a common misconception that the city is located on the island. The island and the city are both named after Royal Navy Captain George Vancouver, though the city of Vancouver, Washington, on the north bank of the Columbia River opposite Portland, Oregon, is only indirectly named for Captain Vancouver; that city’s name was adapted from Fort Vancouver, which had been the headquarters of the Columbia District of the Hudson's Bay Company and the largest settlement in the Pacific Northwest until the Oregon Treaty of 1846.

A green grassy hill dotted with trees slopes down to a paved area with benches. Beyond lies water, docks, and a yacht, and skyscrapers.
Stanley Park with the downtown buildings in the background

Vancouver has one of the largest urban parks in North America, Stanley Park, which covers 404.9 hectares (1001 acres).[43] The North Shore Mountains dominate the cityscape, and on a clear day scenic vistas include the snow-capped volcano Mount Baker in the state of Washington to the southeast, Vancouver Island across the Strait of Georgia to the west and southwest, and the Bowen Island to the northwest.[44]


A sidewalk lined with lights and palm trees. Opposite the street are benches where people sit and watch the bay. In the distance are high-rise buildings, including one with a tree growing on its roof.
Windmill palms are an indicator of the city's temperate climate in comparison to the rest of Canada. These are shown near English Bay.

The vegetation in the Vancouver area was originally temperate rain forest, consisting of conifers with scattered pockets of maple and alder, and large areas of swampland (even in upland areas, due to poor drainage).[45] The conifers were a typical coastal British Columbia mix of Douglas-fir, Western red cedar and Western Hemlock.[46] The area is thought to have the largest trees of these species on the British Columbia Coast. Only in Seattle's Elliott Bay did the size of trees rival those of Burrard Inlet and English Bay. The largest trees in Vancouver's old-growth forest were in the Gastown area, where the first logging occurred, and on the southern slopes of False Creek and English Bay, especially around Jericho Beach. The forest in Stanley Park was logged between the 1860s and 1880s, and evidence of old-fashioned logging techniques such as springboard notches can still be seen there.[47]

Many plants and trees growing throughout Vancouver and the Lower Mainland were imported from other parts of the continent and from points across the Pacific. Various species of palm trees grow in the city, as do large numbers of other exotic trees such as the monkey puzzle tree, the Japanese Maple, and various flowering exotics, such as magnolias, azaleas, and rhododendrons. Some rhododendrons have grown to immense sizes, as have other species imported from harsher climates in Eastern Canada or Europe. The native Douglas Maple can also attain a tremendous size. Many of the city's streets are lined with flowering varieties of Japanese cherry trees donated from the 1930s onward by the government of Japan. These flower for several weeks in early spring each year. Other streets are lined with flowering chestnut, horse chestnut and other decorative shade trees.[48]


Vancouver's climate is temperate by Canadian standards and is usually classified as Oceanic or Marine west coast (Köppen climate classification Cfb). The summer months are typically dry, often resulting in moderate drought conditions, usually in July and August. In contrast, the rest of the year is rainy, especially between October and March.

Annual precipitation as measured at Vancouver Airport in Richmond averages 1,199 millimetres (47.2 in), though this varies dramatically throughout the metro area due to the topography and is considerably higher in the downtown area. In winter, a majority of days (again at Vancouver Airport) receive measurable precipitation. Summer months are drier and sunnier with moderate temperatures, tempered by sea breezes. The daily maximum averages 22 °C (72 °F) in July and August, with highs occasionally reaching 30 °C (86 °F).[49] The highest temperature ever recorded was 34.4 °C (93.9 °F) on 30 July 2009.[50][51] On average, snow falls on eleven days per year, with three days receiving 6 centimetres (2.4 in) or more. Average yearly snowfall is 48.2 centimetres (19.0 in) but typically does not remain on the ground for long.[52] Winters in Greater Vancouver are the fourth mildest of Canadian cities after nearby Victoria, Nanaimo and Duncan, all on Vancouver Island.[53] Vancouver has daily minimum temperatures below 0 °C (32 °F) for an average of 46 days per year and below −10 °C (14.0 °F) on two days per year. On average, 4.5 days a year have temperatures staying below freezing.

Climate data for Vancouver International Airport, Richmond, BC
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 15.3
Average high °C (°F) 6.1
Daily mean °C (°F) 3.3
Average low °C (°F) 0.5
Record low °C (°F) -17.8
Precipitation mm (inches) 153.6
Sunshine hours 60.4 84.6 134.1 182.4 230.7 229.1 294.5 267.9 199.1 124.8 64.3 56.1 1,928
Source: Environment Canada[52] May 2009


View of a blue-green bay, filled with small boats. On the left shore are docks; the beach on the right turns to buildings.
A view of English Bay from the Burrard Bridge

Urban planning

At 5,335 people per km2 (13,817.6 people per mi2) in 2006, Vancouver is the third most densely populated large city in North America after New York City and San Francisco.[citation needed] Urban planning in Vancouver is characterized by high-rise residential and mixed-use development in urban centres, as an alternative to sprawl.[54] This has been credited in contributing to the city's high rankings in livability.

This approach originated in the late 1950s, when city planners began to encourage the building of high-rise residential towers in Vancouver's West End,[55] subject to strict requirements for setbacks and open space to protect sight lines and preserve green space. The success of these dense but livable neighbourhoods led to the redevelopment of urban industrial sites, such as North False Creek and Coal Harbour, beginning in the mid-1980s. The result is a compact urban core that has gained international recognition for its "high amenity and 'livable' development."[56] More recently, the city has been debating "ecodensity"—ways in which "density, design, and land use can contribute to environmental sustainability, affordability, and livability."[57]

High-resolution panorama of a large, brightly-lit skyline at night. A mountain range lies in the background, and a bridge is visible on the left-hand side of the panorama.
A high resolution panorama of Vancouver with the mountains behind, looking roughly north from the vicinity of Broadway and Oak Street. The bridge on the left of the image is the Granville Street Bridge.


Ground-level view of a street surrounded by numerous high-rise buildings. Along the sides of the road are small trees.

Notable buildings within the city include Christ Church Cathedral, the Hotel Vancouver, and the Vancouver Art Gallery. There are several modern buildings in the downtown area, including the Harbour Centre, Vancouver Law Courts and surrounding plaza known as Robson Square (designed by Arthur Erickson) and the Vancouver Library Square (designed by Moshe Safdie), reminiscent of the Colosseum in Rome.

The original BC Hydro headquarters building at Nelson and Burrard Streets is a modernist high-rise, now converted into the Electra condominiums. Also notable is the "concrete waffle" of the MacMillan-Bloedel building on the north-east corner of the Georgia and Thurlow intersection. A prominent addition to the city's landscape is the giant tent-frame Canada Place, the former Canada Pavilion from the 1986 World Exposition, which includes part of the Convention Centre, a Cruise Ship Terminal and the Pan-Pacific Hotel. Two modern buildings that define the southern skyline are the city hall and the Centennial Pavilion of Vancouver Hospital, both designed by Townley and Matheson in 1936 and 1958 respectively.[58][59]

A collection of Edwardian buildings in the city's old downtown core were, in their day, the tallest commercial buildings in the British Empire. These were, in succession, the Carter-Cotton Building (former home of the Vancouver Province newspaper), the Dominion Building (1907) and the Sun Tower (1911), the former two at Cambie and Hastings Streets and the latter at Beatty and Pender Streets. Another notable Edwardian building in the city is the Vancouver Art Gallery building, designed by Francis Rattenbury, who also designed the provincial Legislature and the highly decorated original Hotel Vancouver, which was torn down after WWII due to the completion of the new Hotel Vancouver a block away.[60]

The Sun Tower's cupola was finally exceeded as the Empire's tallest commercial building by the elaborate Art Deco Marine Building in the 1920s.[61] Inspired by New York City's Chrysler Building, the Marine Building is known for its elaborate ceramic tile facings and brass-gilt doors and elevators, which make it a favourite location for movie shoots.[62] Topping the list of the tallest buildings in Vancouver is Living Shangri-La at 201 metres (659 ft)[63] and 62 storeys. The second tallest building in Vancouver is One Wall Centre at 150 metres (491 ft)[64] and 48 storeys, followed closely by the Shaw Tower at 149 metres (489 ft).[64]


Chinese New Year Parade, 2007

Vancouver has been called a "city of neighbourhoods," each with a distinct character and ethnic mix.[65] People of English, Scottish, and Irish origins were historically the largest ethnic groups in the city,[66] and elements of British and Irish society and culture are still visible in some areas, particularly South Granville and Kerrisdale. Germans are the next-largest European ethnic group in Vancouver and were a leading force in the city's society and economy until the rise of anti-German sentiment with the outbreak of World War I in 1914.[8] The Chinese are by far the largest visible ethnic group in the city, and Vancouver has a very diverse Chinese-speaking community, with several dialects represented, including Cantonese and Mandarin.[27][67] Neighbourhoods with distinct ethnic commercial areas include the Punjabi Market, Little Italy, Greektown, and (formerly) Japantown.

In the 1980s, an influx of immigrants from Hong Kong in anticipation of its transfer from the United Kingdom to China, combined with an increase in immigrants from mainland China and previous immigrants from Taiwan, established in Vancouver one of the highest concentrations of ethnic Chinese residents in North America.[68] This arrival of Asian immigrants continued a tradition of immigration from around the world that had established Vancouver as the second most popular destination for immigrants in Canada (after Toronto).[69] Other significant Asian ethnic groups in Vancouver are South Asian (mostly Punjabi, usually referred to as Indo-Canadian), Vietnamese, Filipino, Indonesian, Korean, Cambodians and Japanese. Despite increases in Latin American immigration to Vancouver in the 1980s and 90s, immigration from Latin America has been comparatively low, and African immigration has been similarly stagnant (3.6% and 3.3% of total immigrant population, respectively.)[70] In 1981, less than 7% of the population belonged to a visible minority group.[71] By 2008, this proportion had grown to 51%.[72]

Prior to the Hong Kong diaspora of the 1990s, the largest non-British ethnic groups in the city were Irish and German, followed by Scandinavian, Italian, Ukrainian and Chinese, most of the latter being descended from immigrants from Taishan (Toi Shan) in Guangdong. From the mid 1950s until the 1980s, many Portuguese immigrants came to Vancouver and the city now has the third-largest Portuguese population in Canada after Toronto and Montreal. Eastern Europeans, including Yugoslavs, Russians, Czechs, Poles and Hungarians began immigrating after the Soviet takeover of Eastern Europe after World War II.[8] Greek immigration increased in the late 1960s and early 1970s during the Dictatorship of the Colonels in Greece, with most settling in the Kitsilano area. In addition to its immigration population, Vancouver has an aboriginal community of about 11,000 people.[73]

Vancouver has a large gay community,[74] and British Columbia was the second Canadian jurisdiction (after Ontario) to make same-sex marriage legal.[75] The downtown area around Davie Street, known as Davie Village, is the centre of the gay community.[76] Vancouver has one of the country's largest annual gay pride parades.[77]

Visible Minorities 2006 Census[78]
Visible minority n.i.e. Arab Black West Asian Multiple visible minority Latin American Korean Japanese Southeast Asian Filipino South Asian Chinese
Population 990 1,875 5,290 5,355 7,320 8,225 8,780 9,730 14,850 28,605 32,515 168,215
Percent 0.2% 0.3% 0.9% 0.9% 1.3% 1.4% 1.5% 1.7% 2.6% 5.0% 5.7% 29.4%
Canadian Census Population Growth by decade[79][80]
Year 1891 1901 1911 1921 1931 1941 1951 1961 1971 1981 1991 2001 2006
Vancouver 13,709 26,133 100,401 117,217 246,593 275,353 344,833 384,522 426,256 414,281 471,644 545,671 578,041
Greater Vancouver 21,887 42,926 164,020 232,597 347,709 393,898 562,462 790,741 1,028,334 1,169,831 1,602,590 1,986,965 2,116,581


With its location on the Pacific Rim and at the western terminus of Canada's transcontinental highway and rail routes, Vancouver is one of the nation's largest industrial centres.[44] The Port of Vancouver, Canada's largest and most diversified, does more than C$75 billion in trade with over 130 different economies annually. Port activities generate $10.5 billion in gross domestic product and $22 billion in economic output.[81] Vancouver is also the headquarters of forest product and mining companies. In recent years, Vancouver has become an increasingly important centre for software development, biotechnology and a vibrant film industry.[82]

The city's scenic location makes it a major tourist destination. Visitors come for the city's gardens, Stanley Park, Queen Elizabeth Park, VanDusen and the mountains, ocean, forest and parklands surrounding the city. Each year over a million people pass through Vancouver on cruise ship vacations, often bound for Alaska.[82]

Vancouver is amongst the most least affordable cities in which to live in the nation, with the highest housing prices in Canada. Several 2006 studies rank Vancouver as having the least affordable housing in Canada, ranking 13th least affordable in the world, up from 15th in 2005.[83][84][85] The city has adopted various strategies to reduce housing costs, including cooperative housing, legalized secondary suites, increased density and smart growth. A significant number of the city's residents are affluent, a perception reinforced by the number of luxury vehicles on city streets and cost of real estate. As of mid-2007, the average two-storey home in Vancouver sells for $757,750, compared with $467,742 in Toronto and $322,853 in Calgary, the second and third most expensive cities in Canada.[86] Housing prices have dropped from a peak in 2008, with the average residential sales price for 2009 forecast to be down 9%. The decline in prices has attracted new buyers to the market, however, and prices are expected to stabilize.[87]

Since the 1990s development of high-rise condominiums in the downtown peninsula has been financed, in part, by an inflow of capital from Hong Kong immigrants due to the former colony's 1997 handover to the PRC.[citation needed] Such development has clustered in the Yaletown and Coal Harbour districts and around many of the SkyTrain stations to the east of the downtown.[82] The city's selection to co-host the 2010 Winter Olympics has also been a major influence on economic development. Concern has been expressed that Vancouver's increasing homelessness problem may be exacerbated by the Olympics because owners of single room occupancy hotels, which house many of the city's lowest income residents, have begun converting their properties in order to attract higher income residents and tourists.[88] Another significant international event held in Vancouver, the 1986 World Exposition, received over 20 million visitors and added $3.7 billion to the Canadian economy. Some still-standing Vancouver landmarks, including the SkyTrain public transit system and Canada Place, were built as part of the exposition.[89]


Vancouver, unlike other British Columbia municipalities, is incorporated under the Vancouver Charter.[90] The legislation, passed in 1953, supersedes the Vancouver Incorporation Act, 1921 and grants the city more and different powers than other communities possess under BC's Municipalities Act.

The civic government has been dominated by the centre-right Non-Partisan Association (NPA) since the Second World War, albeit with some significant centre-left interludes until 2008.[27] The NPA fractured over the issue of drug policy in 2002, facilitating a landslide victory for the Coalition of Progressive Electors on a harm reduction platform. Subsequently, North America's first safe injection site was opened for the significant number of intravenous heroin users in the city.

Vancouver is governed by the ten-member Vancouver City Council, a nine-member School Board, and a seven-member Parks Board, all elected for three-year terms through an at-large system. Historically, in all levels of government, the more affluent west side of Vancouver has voted along conservative or liberal lines while the eastern side of the city has voted along left-wing lines.[91] This was reaffirmed with the results of the 2005 provincial election and the 2006 federal election.

A white flag with multicolored, intersecting rings flies in front of a tall building with illuminated red clocks near the top and capped with a red-and-white Canadian flag.
Vancouver City Hall with the 2010 Winter Olympics Flag

Though polarized, a political consensus has emerged in Vancouver around a number of issues. Protection of urban parks, a focus on the development of rapid transit as opposed to a freeway system, a harm reduction approach to illegal drug use, and a general concern about community-based development are examples of policies that have come to have broad support across the political spectrum in Vancouver.

In the 2008 Municipal Election campaign, NPA incumbent mayor Sam Sullivan was ousted as mayoral candidate by the party in a close vote, which instated Peter Ladner as the new mayoral candidate for the NPA. Gregor Robertson, a former MLA for Vancouver-Fairview and head of Happy Planet, was the mayoral candidate for Vision Vancouver, the other main contender. Vision Vancouver candidate Gregor Robertson defeated Ladner by a considerable margin, nearing 20,000 votes. The balance of power was significantly shifted to Vision Vancouver, which held 7 of the 10 spots for councillor. Of the remaining three, COPE received 2 and the NPA 1. For park commissioner, 4 spots went to Vision Vancouver, 1 to the Green Party, 1 to COPE, and 1 to NPA. For school trustee, there were 4 Vision Vancouver seats, 3 COPE seats, and 2 NPA seats.[92]

Provincial and federal representation

In the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia, Vancouver is represented by 11 Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs), which includes Gordon Campbell, the current Premier. There are currently six seats held by the BC Liberal Party and five by the BC New Democratic Party.[93]

In the Canadian House of Commons, Vancouver is represented by five Members of Parliament. In the 2004 federal elections, the Liberal Party of Canada won four seats and the federal New Democratic Party (NDP) one. In the 2006 federal elections, all the same Members of Parliament were re-elected. However, on 6 February 2006, David Emerson of Vancouver Kingsway defected to the Conservative Party, giving the Conservatives one seat in Vancouver. In the 2008 federal election, the NDP took the Vancouver Kingsway seat vacated by Emerson, giving the NDP two seats to the Liberals' three.[94][95]


While most of the Lower Mainland is policed by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police's "E" Division, Vancouver operates the Vancouver Police Department, with a strength of 1,174 sworn members and an operating budget of $149 million in 2005.[96][97][98] Over 16% of the city's budget was spent on police protection in 2005.[99]

The Vancouver Police Department's operational divisions include a bicycle squad, a marine squad, and a dog squad. It also has a mounted squad, used primarily to patrol Stanley Park and occasionally the Downtown Eastside and West End, as well as for crowd control.[100] The police work in conjunction with civilian and volunteer run Community Police Centres.[101] In 2006, the police department established its own Counter Terrorism Unit. In 2005, a new transit police force, the Greater Vancouver Transportation Authority Police Service (now South Coast British Columbia Transportation Authority Police Service), was established with full police powers.

Although it is illegal, Vancouver police generally do not arrest people for possessing small amounts of marijuana.[102] In 2000 the Vancouver Police Department established a specialized drug squad, "Growbusters," to carry out an aggressive campaign against the city's estimated 4,000 hydroponic marijuana growing operations (or grow-ops) in residential areas.[103] As with other law enforcement campaigns targeting marijuana this initiative has been sharply criticized.[104]

As of 2008, Vancouver had the seventh highest crime rate, dropping 3 spots since 2005, among Canada's 27 census metropolitan areas.[105] However, as with other Canadian cities, the over-all crime rate has been falling "dramatically."[106] Vancouver's property crime rate is particularly high, ranking among the highest for major North American cities.[107] But even property crime dropped 10.5% between 2004 and 2005, according to the Vancouver Police.[97] Metro Vancouver has the highest rate of gun-related violent crime of any major metropolitan region in Canada, according to a 2006 Statistics Canada study. There were 45.3 violent offences involving guns for every 100,000 people in Metro Vancouver, slightly higher than the Toronto CMA at 40.4 but far above the national average of 27.5.[108] A series of gang-related incidents in early 2009 escalated into what police have dubbed a gang war. Vancouver plays host to special events such as the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation conference, the Clinton-Yeltsin Summit or the Symphony of Fire fireworks show that require significant policing. The 1994 Stanley Cup riot overwhelmed police and injured as many as 200 people.[109]


Vancouver is the location of the Canadian Forces Land Forces Western Area headquarters of the 39 Canadian Brigade Group, located at Jericho.[110] Local primary reserve units include The Seaforth Highlanders of Canada and The British Columbia Regiment (Duke of Connaught's Own), based at the Seaforth Armoury and the Beatty Street Drill Hall, respectively, and the 15th Field Regiment, Royal Canadian Artillery.[111] The Naval Reserve Unit HMCS Discovery is based on Deadman's Island in Stanley Park.[112] RCAF Station Jericho Beach, the first air base in Canada, was taken over by the Canadian Army in 1947 when sea planes were replaced by long-range aircraft. Most of the base facilities were transferred to the City of Vancouver in 1969 and the area renamed "Jericho Park".[113]


The Vancouver School Board enrolls more than 110,000 students over its elementary, secondary, and post secondary institutions, making it the second largest school district in the province.[114][115] The district administers about 74 elementary schools, 17 elementary annexes, 18 secondary schools, 7 adult education centres, 2 Vancouver Learn Network schools, all which include 18 french immersion, a Mandarin bilingual, a fine arts school, gifted, and Montessori.[114] More than 46 independent schools of a wide variety are also eligible for partial provincial funding and educate approximately 10% of students in the city.[116]

Greater Vancouver is home to two major public universities, the University of British Columbia (UBC) and Simon Fraser University (SFU), where more than 80,000 undergraduates, graduates, and professional students enrolled in 2008.[117][118] In 2006, UBC was ranked 27th best university in the world by Newsweek magazine, and SFU ranked as the best comprehensive university in Canada by Maclean’s University Rankings in 2009.[119][120]

The British Columbia Institute of Technology, which provides polytechnic education, Vancouver Community College, and Langara College are publicly funded college-level institutions, and are augmented by private institutions, and other colleges in the surrounding areas of Metro Vancouver that provide career, trade, and university-transfer programs, notably Douglas College and Capilano University. The Emily Carr University of Art and Design grants certificates, diplomas, and degrees in art and design, while the Vancouver Film School provides a one-year curriculum in film production.[121][122]

International students and ESL students have been significant in the enrollment of these public and private institutions. The Vancouver School Board reported for its 2008/2009 year that 53% of its students spoke a language other than English at home.[115]

Arts and culture

Film and theatre

Prominent theatre companies in Vancouver include the Arts Club Theatre Company and Vancouver TheatreSports League on Granville Island, the Vancouver Playhouse Theatre Company, and Bard on the Beach. Smaller companies include Touchstone Theatre, Studio 58, Carousel Theatre, and the United Players of Vancouver. Theatre Under the Stars produces shows in the summer at Malkin Bowl in Stanley Park. In addition, Vancouver holds an annual Fringe Festival.

The Vancouver International Film Festival, which runs for two weeks each September, shows over 350 films and is one of the larger film festivals in North America. The associated Vancity Theatre runs independent non-commercial films throughout the rest of the year, as do the Pacific Cinematheque, the Festival Cinemas theatres, and the Hollywood and Rio theatres.


In the Kitsilano district are the Vancouver Maritime Museum, and the H. R. MacMillan Space Centre. The Museum of Anthropology at UBC is a leading museum of Pacific Northwest Coast First Nations culture, and the Vancouver Museum is the largest civic museum in Canada. A more interactive museum is Science World. The city also features a diverse collection of Public Art.

The Vancouver Art Gallery has a permanent collection of nearly 10,000 items and is the home of a significant number of works by Emily Carr.[123]


Musical contributions from Vancouver include performers of classical, folk and popular music. The Vancouver Symphony Orchestra is the professional orchestra based in the city. The Vancouver Opera is a major opera company in the city.

The city produced a number of notable punk rock bands, including the pioneering hardcore band D.O.A.. Other early Vancouver punk bands included the Subhumans, the Young Canadians, the Pointed Sticks, Active Dog, The Modernettes, UJ3RK5, I and Braineater.[124] When alternative rock became popular in the 1990s, several Vancouver groups rose to prominence, including 54-40, Odds, Moist, the Matthew Good Band and Econoline Crush. Recent successful Vancouver bands include Gob and Stabilo. Today, Vancouver is home to a number of popular independent bands such as The New Pornographers, Destroyer and independent labels including Nettwerk and Mint. Vancouver also produced influential metal band Strapping Young Lad and pioneering electro-industrial bands Skinny Puppy and Front Line Assembly; the latter's Bill Leeb is better known for founding ambient pop super-group Delerium. Other popular musical artists who made their mark from Vancouver include Bryan Adams, Sarah McLachlan, Heart, Prism, Trooper, Chilliwack, Payola$, Images in Vogue, Michael Buble, Marianas Trench and Spirit of the West.[125]

Larger musical performances are usually held at venues such as GM Place, Queen Elizabeth Theatre, BC Place Stadium or the Pacific Coliseum, while smaller acts are held at places such as the Plaza of Nations, the Commodore Ballroom, the Orpheum Theatre and the Vogue Theatre (currently closed). The Vancouver Folk Music Festival and the Vancouver International Jazz Festival showcase music in their respective genres from around the world.

Vancouver nightlife; Nelson and Granville Street

Vancouver's Chinese population has produced several Cantopop stars. Similarly, various Indo-Canadian artists and actors have a profile in Bollywood or other aspects of India's entertainment industry.


For many years, nightlife in Vancouver had been somewhat restricted by early closing times for bars and night clubs, and a reluctance by authorities to allow for further development. Since 2003, however, the City of Vancouver has experimented with later closing hours and relaxed regulations, and an effort has been made to develop the Downtown core further as an entertainment district, especially on and around Granville Street.[126]

Quality and cost of living

Vancouver has been ranked one of the most livable cities in the world for more than a decade.[14] In contrast, according to Forbes, Vancouver had the 6th most overpriced real estate market in the world and was second highest in North America after Los Angeles in 2007.[127] Vancouver has also been ranked Canada's second most expensive city to live in after Toronto and the 89th most expensive globally.[128] In the same year, Vancouver was ranked as the 10th cleanest city in the world by Forbes.[129]

Vancouver has an adult obesity rate of 12% compared to the Canadian average of 23%. 51% of Vancouverites are overweight, making it the fourth thinnest city in Canada after Toronto, Montreal, and Halifax.[130][131]


Vancouver is a major film and television production centre. Nicknamed Hollywood North, the city has been used as a film making location for nearly a century, beginning with the Edison Manufacturing Company.[132] In 2008, the BC Film Commission reported more than 260 productions were filmed in Vancouver making it the third largest film centre in North America, after Los Angeles and New York City, and second to Los Angeles in television production in the world.[133][134][135]

A wide mix of local, national, and international newspapers are distributed in the city. The two major English-language daily newspapers are The Vancouver Sun and The Province. Also, two national newspapers distributed in the city are The Globe and Mail, which began publication of a "national edition" in B.C. in 1983 and recently expanded to include a three-page B.C. news section, and the National Post which centres around national news. Other local newspapers include 24H (a local free daily), the Vancouver franchise of the national free daily Metro, the twice-a-week Vancouver Courier, and the independent newspaper The Georgia Straight. Three Chinese language daily newspapers, Ming Pao, Sing Tao and World Journal cater to the city's large Cantonese and Mandarin speaking population. A number of other local and international papers serve other multicultural groups in the Lower Mainland.

Some of the local television stations include CBC, Citytv, CTV and Global BC. OMNI British Columbia produce daily newscasts in Cantonese, Mandarin, Punjabi and Korean, and weekly newscasts in Tagalog, as well as programs aimed at other cultural groups. Fairchild Group also has two television stations: Fairchild TV and Talentvision, serving Cantonese and Mandarin speaking audiences respectively.

Radio stations with news departments include CBC Radio One, CKNW and News 1130. The Franco-Columbian community is served by Radio-Canada outlets CBUFT channel 26 (Télévision de Radio-Canada), CBUF-FM 97.7 (Première Chaîne) and CBUX-FM 90.9 (Espace musique). Vancouver also has British Columbia's longest running Ukrainian radio program, Nash Holos.

Media dominance is a frequently discussed issue in Vancouver as newspapers, The Vancouver Sun, The Province, the Vancouver Courier and other local newspapers such as the Surrey Now, the Burnaby Now and the Richmond News, and for television, Global BC, are all owned by Canwest.[136] The concentration single owned corporate media has spurred alternatives, making Vancouver a centre for independent online media including The Tyee and NowPublic.[137]


Vancouver's streetcar system began on 28 June 1890 and ran from the (first) Granville Street Bridge to Westminster Avenue (now Main Street and Kingsway). Less than a year later, the Westminster and Vancouver Tramway Company began operating Canada's first interurban line between the two cities and beyond to Chilliwack, with another line, the Lulu Island Railroad, from the Granville Street Bridge to Steveston via Kerrisdale, which encouraged residential neighbourhoods outside the central core to develop.[138] The British Columbia Electric Railway became the company that operated the urban and interurban rail system, until 1958 when its last vestiges were dismantled in favour of "trackless" trolley and gasoline/diesel buses.[139] Vancouver currently has the second largest trolley bus fleet in North America after San Francisco.

A two car train follows rail tracks under and bridge. In the background can be seen a domed sports stadium and high-rise buildings.
Vancouver's SkyTrain in the Grandview Cut, with downtown Vancouver in the background. The dome-like structure is BC Place Stadium

Successive city councils in the 1970s and 1980s prohibited the construction of freeways as part of a long term plan.[140] As a result, the only major freeway within city limits is Highway 1, which passes through the north-eastern corner of the city. While the number of cars in Vancouver proper has been steadily rising with population growth, the rate of car ownership and the average distance driven by daily commuters have fallen since the early 1990s.[141][142] Vancouver is the only major Canadian city with these trends. Despite the fact that the journey time per vehicle has increased by one third and growing traffic mass, there are 7% fewer cars making trips into the downtown core.[141] Residents have been more inclined to live in areas closer to their interests, or use more energy-efficient means of travel, such as mass transit and cycling. This is, in part, the result of a push by city planners for a solution to traffic problems and pro-environment campaigns. Transportation demand management policies have imposed restrictions on drivers making it more difficult and expensive to commute while introducing more benefits for non-drivers.[141]

TransLink is responsible for roads and public transportation within Metro Vancouver. It provides a bus service, including the B-Line rapid bus service, a foot passenger and bicycle ferry service (known as SeaBus), an automated rapid transit service called SkyTrain, and West Coast Express commuter rail. Vancouver's SkyTrain system is currently running on three lines, the Millennium Line, the Expo Line and the Canada Line.[143]

Changes are being made to the regional transportation network as part of Translink's 10-Year Transportation Plan. The recently completed Canada Line, opened on 17 August 2009, that connects Vancouver International Airport and the neighbouring city of Richmond with the existing SkyTrain system. The Evergreen Line is planned to link the cities of Coquitlam and Port Moody with the SkyTrain system by 2014. There are also plans to extend the SkyTrain Millennium Line west to UBC as a subway under Broadway and capacity upgrades and an extension to the Expo Line. Several road projects will be completed within the next few years, including a replacement for the Port Mann Bridge, as part of the Provincial Government's Gateway Program.[143]

Other modes of transport add to the diversity of options available in Vancouver. Inter-city passenger rail service is operated from Pacific Central Station by VIA Rail to points east; Amtrak Cascades to Seattle; and Rocky Mountaineer rail tour routes. Small passenger ferries operating in False Creek provide commuter service to Granville Island, Downtown Vancouver and Kitsilano. Vancouver has a city-wide network of bicycle lanes and routes, which supports an active population of cyclists year-round. Cycling has become Vancouver's fastest growing mode of transportation.[144]

Vancouver is served by Vancouver International Airport (YVR), located on Sea Island in the City of Richmond, immediately south of Vancouver. Vancouver's airport is Canada's second busiest airport,[145] and the second largest gateway on the west coast of North America for international passengers.[146] HeliJet and float plane companies operate scheduled air service from Vancouver harbour and YVR south terminal. The city is also served by two BC Ferry terminals. One is to the northwest at Horseshoe Bay (in West Vancouver), and the other is to the south, at Tsawwassen (in Delta).[147]

Sports and recreation

Cars pass by on an elevated highway in the foreground. In the midground is a large, oval-shaped building with a white, domed roof.
BC Place Stadium, home of the BC Lions. SIte of the Opening and Closing ceremonies of the 2010 Winter Olympics. The dome on the lower right is GM Place.

The mild climate of the city and close proximity to ocean, mountains, rivers and lakes make the area a popular destination for outdoor recreation. Vancouver has over 1,298 hectares (3,200 acres) of parks, of which, Stanley Park, at 404 hectares (1,000 acres), is the largest.[148] The city has several large beaches, many adjacent to one another, extending from the shoreline of Stanley Park around False Creek to the south side of English Bay, from Kitsilano to the University Endowment Lands, (which also has beaches that are not part of the city proper). The 18 kilometres (11 miles) of beaches include Second and Third Beaches in Stanley Park, English Bay (First Beach), Sunset, Kitsilano Beach, Jericho, Locarno, Spanish Banks, Spanish Banks Extension and Spanish Banks West. There is also a freshwater beach at Trout Lake. The coastline provides for many types of water sport, and the city is a popular destination for boating enthusiasts.[149]

Within a 20-to-30-minute drive from downtown Vancouver are the North Shore Mountains, with three ski areas: Cypress Mountain, Grouse Mountain, and Mount Seymour. Mountain bikers have created world-renowned trails across the North Shore. The Capilano River, Lynn Creek and Seymour River, also on the North Shore, provide opportunities to whitewater enthusiasts during periods of rain and spring melt, though the canyons of those rivers are more utilized for hiking and swimming than whitewater.[150]

Running races include the Vancouver Sun Run (a 10 km (6.2 mi) race) every April; the Vancouver Marathon, held every May; and the Scotiabank Vancouver Half-Marathon held every June. The Grouse Grind is a 2.9-kilometre (1.8 mi) climb up Grouse Mountain open throughout the summer and fall months, including the annual Grouse Grind Mountain Run. Hiking trails include the Baden-Powell Trail, an arduous 42-kilometre (26 mi) long hike from West Vancouver's Horseshoe Bay to Deep Cove in the District of North Vancouver.[151]

Vancouver was the host city for the 2010 Winter Olympic and will be the host city for the Paralympic Games. In 2009, Vancouver hosted the World Police and Fire Games. Swangard Stadium, in nearby Burnaby, hosted games for the 2007 FIFA U-20 World Cup.[15][152]

In 2011, Vancouver will be hosting the Grey Cup, the Canadian Football League (CFL) championship game which is awarded every year to a different city which has a CFL team. The Vancouver Titans of the International Basketball League played their inaugural season in 2009, with home games at the Langley Event Centre.[153] Vancouver is a centre for the fast-growing sport of Ultimate. During the summer of 2008 Vancouver hosted the World Ultimate Championships.[154]

Slightly elevated view of an active ice rink. Players on one team wear mostly red and white uniforms, while the others are outfitted predominately in blue.
GM Place, home of the Vancouver Canucks
Club League Sport Venue Established Championships
Vancouver Canucks NHL Ice hockey General Motors Place 1970 0
BC Lions CFL Football BC Place Stadium 1954 5
Vancouver Canadians NWL Baseball (Single A Short Season) Nat Bailey Stadium 2000 0
Vancouver Whitecaps FC USSF Division 2 Professional League (men's)
W-League (women's)
Soccer Swangard Stadium 1986
Vancouver Giants WHL Ice hockey Pacific Coliseum 2001 1
Vancouver Titans IBL Basketball Langley Event Centre 2009 0
Vancouver (first season in 2011) MLS Soccer BC Place Stadium 2009 (2011) 0

Affiliated cities and municipalities

The City of Vancouver was one of the first cities in Canada to enter into an international sister cities arrangement.[155] Special arrangements for cultural, social and economic benefits have been created with these sister cities.[44][156]

There are 21 municipalities in the Greater Vancouver Regional District (GVRD). While each of these has a separate municipal government, the GVRD oversees common services within the metropolitan area such as water, sewage, transportation, and regional parks.

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External links

Coordinates: 49°15′N 123°06′W / 49.25°N 123.1°W / 49.25; -123.1


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