Victoria is the capital city of British Columbia. Located on the southern tip of Vancouver Island, Victoria is a major tourism destination seeing more than 3.65 million visitors a year who inject more than one billion dollars into the local economy. Victoria is a cruise ship port where cruise liners stop at Ogden Point terminal. The city also receives economic benefits from its close proximity to Canadian Forces Base Esquimalt, the Canadian military’s main Pacific naval base. Downtown Victoria also serves as Greater Victoria's regional downtown, where many night clubs, theatres, restaurants and pubs are clustered, and where much larger regional public events occur. In particular, Canada Day fireworks displays and Symphony Splash concerts draw tens of thousands of Greater Victorians and visitors to the downtown core.
The city has hosted sports events including the 2005 Ford World Men's Curling Championship tournament, the 1994 Commonwealth Games, and 2006 Skate Canada. Victoria co-hosted the 2007 FIFA U-20 World Cup at Royal Athletic Park, and is the venue for the Bastion Square Grand Prix Criterium road cycling race. The city is also a destination for conventions, meetings, and conferences, including a 2007 North Atlantic Treaty Organization military chief of staff meeting. Every year, the Swiftsure International Yacht Race brings boaters from around the world, to participate in the boat race in the waters off of Vancouver Island as well the Victoria Dragon Boat Festival brings over 90 teams from around North America. The Tall Ships Festival brings sailing ships to Victoria for the public to see and feel the sailing way of life in the past and present.
With the discovery of gold on the British Columbia mainland in 1858, Victoria became the port, supply base, and outfitting centre for miners on their way to the Fraser Canyon gold fields, mushrooming from a population of 300 to over 5000 literally within a few days. In 1866 when the island was politically united with the mainland, Victoria remained the capital of the new united colony and became the provincial capital when British Columbia joined the Canadian Confederation in 1871. Victoria was incorporated as a city in 1862. In 1865, Esquimalt was made the North Pacific home of the Royal Navy, and remains Canada's west coast naval base.
In 1886, with the completion of the Canadian Pacific Railway terminus on Burrard Inlet, Victoria's position as the commercial centre of British Columbia was irrevocably lost to the City of Vancouver. The city subsequently began cultivating an image of genteel civility within its natural setting, an image aided by the impressions of visitors such as Rudyard Kipling, the opening of the popular Butchart Gardens in 1904 and the construction of the Empress Hotel by the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1908. Robert Dunsmuir, a leading industrialist whose interests included coal mines and a railway on Vancouver Island, constructed Craigdarroch Castle in the Rockland area, near the official residence of the province's lieutenant-governor. His son James Dunsmuir became premier and subsequently lieutenant-governor of the province and built his own grand residence at Hatley Park (used for several decades as Royal Roads Military College, now civilian Royal Roads University) in the present City of Colwood.
A real estate and development boom ended just before World War I, leaving Victoria with a large stock of Edwardian public, commercial and residential structures that have greatly contributed to the City's character. A number of municipalities surrounding Victoria were incorporated during this period, including the Township of Esquimalt, the District of Oak Bay, and several municipalities on the Saanich Peninsula. Since World War II the Victoria area has seen relatively steady growth, becoming home to two major universities. Since the 1980s the western suburbs have been incorporated as new municipalities, such as Colwood and Langford.
Greater Victoria periodically experiences calls for the amalgamation of the thirteen municipal governments within the Capital Regional District. The opponents of amalgamation state that separate governance affords residents a greater deal of local autonomy. The proponents of amalgamation argue that it would reduce duplication of services, while allowing for more efficient use of resources and the ability to better handle broad, regional issues and long-term planning.
Daily temperatures rise above 30°C (86°F) on an average of one or two days per year and fall below -5°C (23°F) on an average of only 2 nights per year. During the winter, the average daily high and low temperatures are 8.2°C (47°F) and 3.6°C (38°F), respectively. The summer months are equally mild, with an average high temperature of 19.6°C (67°F) and low of 11.3°C (52°F). Victoria does occasionally experience more extreme temperatures. The highest temperature ever recorded in Victoria was 36.3°C (97.3°F) on July 11, 2007, while the coldest temperature on record was -15.6°C (4°F) on December 29, 1968 and January 28, 1950. Victoria has not recorded a temperature below -10°C (14°F) since 1990.
Total annual precipitation is just 608 mm (24in) at the Gonzales weather station in Victoria, contrasted to nearby Seattle, (137 km/85 miles away to the southeast), with 970mm (38in) of rainfall, or Vancouver, 100 km away, with 1,219 mm (48 in) of rainfall. Perhaps even more dramatic is the difference in rainfalls on Vancouver Island. Port Renfrew, just 80 km from Victoria on the wet southwest coast of Vancouver Island receives 3,671 mm (145 in). Even the Victoria Airport, 25 km north of the city, receives about 45 per cent more precipitation than the city proper. One of the most striking features of Victoria's climate is the distinct dry and rainy seasons. Nearly two thirds of the annual precipitation falls during the four wettest months, November to February. Precipitation in December, the wettest month (109 mm/4 in) is nearly eight times as high as in July, the driest month (14 mm/0.5 in). During the summer months, Victoria is the driest major city in Canada.
Victoria averages just 26 cm (10 in) of snow annually. Every few decades, Victoria receives very large snowfalls, including the more than 100 cm (39 in) of snow that fell in December 1996. On the other hand, roughly one third of winters will see virtually no snow, with less than 5 cm (2 in) falling during the entire season. When snow does fall, it rarely lasts long on the ground. Victoria averages just 2-3 days per year with at least 5 cm (2 in) of snow on the ground.
The rain shadow effect also means that Victoria gets more sunshine than surrounding areas. With 2,223 hours of sun annually, Victoria is one of the sunniest places in British Columbia, and gets more sunshine than most other cities in Canada except those in the southern Prairies. The benefits of Victoria's climate are evident through the city's gardens, which are more likely to display drought-tolerant oak trees, eucalyptus, arbutus, and even bananas, than they are likely to feature evergreen conifers, which are typically associated with the coastal Pacific Northwest environment.
|Average Sunshine hours||78||102||150||205||267||271||331||303||222||148||81||65||2223|
Victoria's equable climate has also added to its reputation as the "City of Gardens". With its mild temperatures and plentiful sunshine, Victoria boasts gardens that are home to many plant species rarely found elsewhere in Canada. Several species of palms, eucalyptus, and even certain varieties of bananas can be seen growing throughout the area's gardens. The city takes pride in the many flowers that bloom during the winter and early spring, including crocuses, daffodils, early-blooming rhododendrons, cherry and plum trees. Every February there is an annual "flower count" in what for the rest of the country and most of the province is still the dead of winter.
Due to its mild climate, Victoria and its surrounding area (southeastern Vancouver Island, Gulf Islands, and parts of the Lower Mainland and Sunshine Coast) is also home to many rare, native plants found nowhere else in Canada, including Quercus garryana (Garry oak), Arctostaphylos columbiana (Hairy manzanita), and Canada's only broad leaf evergreen tree, Arbutus menziesii (Pacific madrone). Many of these species exist here at the northern end of their range, and are found as far south as Central and Southern California, and even parts of Mexico.
The following is a list of neighbourhoods in the City of Victoria, as defined by the city planning department. For a list of neighbourhoods in other area municipalities, see Greater Victoria, or the individual entries for those municipalities.
Other city districts often regarded as neighbourhoods include:
|Ethnic group||% of total Victoria pop.||Pop. in City of Victoria||Percentage in BC|
|"Not a visible minority"||88%||66,260||75%|
|Tot. visible minority pop.||12%||9130||25%|
|* South Asian||1%||1015||6%|
Each of the additional ethnic groups listed in the 2006 census represent less than 1% of the population of the City of Victoria.
The Victoria Advanced Technology Council (VIATeC) is an umbrella organization, partnership between industry and education, promoting high tech industry development in the Victoria region.
The May 24, 2007 edition of the Victoria Times-Colonist newspaper reported that for the first time in Victoria history, high technology has overtaken tourism as the top performing economic sector in Greater Victoria. A gala awards event was staged at the Victoria Conference Centre for business executives and companies that achieved excellence in their respective fields.
The Victoria Region is experiencing a booming real estate economy. The labour shortages and high cost of housing seem to mirror the economic trends of other booming Canadian cities such as Vancouver, Edmonton and Calgary.
The Port of Victoria consists of three parts, the Outer Harbour, used by deep sea vessels, the Inner and Upper Harbours, used by coastal and industrial traffic. It is protected by a breakwater with deep and wide opening. The port is a working harbour, tourist attraction and cruise destination. Esquimalt is also a well-protected harbour with large graving dock and shipbuilding and repair facilities.
The homeless survey conducted by the Victoria Cool-Aid Society found 50% of the homeless population identify themselves as First Nations, and the majority of people living on the streets do not receive income assistance from the government.
The Victoria Symphony, led by Tania Miller, performs at the Royal Theatre and the Farquhar Auditorium of the University of Victoria from September to May. Every BC Day weekend, the Symphony mounts Symphony Splash, an outdoor event that includes a performance by the orchestra sitting on a barge in Victoria's Inner Harbour. Streets in the local area are closed, as each year approximately 40,000 people attend a variety of concerts and events throughout the day. The event culminates with the Symphony's evening concert, with Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture as the grand finale, complete with cannon-fire, a pealing carillon and a fireworks display to honour BC Day. Pacific Opera Victoria, Victoria Philharmonic Choir and Ballet Victoria stage two or three productions each year at the Macpherson or Royal Theatres. The Electronic Music Festival takes place in Centennial Square during the same time period for the BC Day holiday; DJs from various places show off their music skills.
The Bastion Theatre, a professional dramatic company, functioned in Victoria through the 1970s and '80s and performed high quality dramatic productions but ultimately declared bankruptcy in 1988. Reborn as The New Bastion Theatre in 1990 the company struggled for two more years before closing operations in 1992.
The Belfry Theatre started in 1974 as the Springridge Cultural Centre in 1974. The venue was renamed the Belfry Theatre in 1976 as the company began producing its own shows. The Belfry’s mandate is to produce contemporary plays with an emphasis on new Canadian plays.
Other regional Theatre venues include: Phoenix Theatre student theatre at the University of Victoria, Kaleidoscope Theatre and Intrepid Theatre, producers of the Victoria Fringe Theatre Festival and The Uno Festival of Solo Performance.
The only Canadian Forces Primary Reserve brass/reed band on Vancouver Island is located in Victoria. The 5th (British Columbia) Field Regiment, Royal Canadian Artillery Band traces its roots back to 1864, making it the oldest, continually-operational military band west of Thunder Bay, Ontario. Its mandate is to support the island's military community by performing at military dinners, parades and ceremonies, and other events. The band performs weekly in August at Fort Rodd Hill National Historic Site where the Regiment started manning the guns of the fort in 1896, and also performs every year at the Cameron Bandshell at Beacon Hill Park.
The current major sporting and entertainment complex, for Victoria and Vancouver Island Region, is the Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre arena. It replaced the former Victoria Memorial Arena, which was constructed by efforts of World War II veterans as a monument to fallen comrades. World War I, World War II, Korean War, and other conflict veterans are also commemorated. Fallen Canadian soldiers in past, present, and future wars and/or United Nations, NATO missions are noted, or will be noted by the main lobby monument at the Save On Foods Memorial Centre. The arena is the home of the ECHL (formerly known as the East Coast Hockey League) team, Victoria Salmon Kings, owned by RG Properties Limited, a real estate development firm that built the Victoria Save On Foods Memorial Centre, and Prospera Place Arena in Kelowna.
A number of well-known musicians and bands are from Victoria, including Nelly Furtado, David Foster, Johnny Vallis, Bryce Soderberg, Swollen Members, Armchair Cynics, and Hot Hot Heat. From the film industry, Hollywood director Atom Egoyan was raised in Victoria. Actor Cameron Bright (Ultraviolet (film), X-Men: The Last Stand, Thank You For Smoking) was born in Victoria.
Beacon Hill Park is the central city's main urban green space. Its area of 75 hectares adjacent to Victoria's southern shore includes numerous playing fields, manicured gardens, exotic species of plants and animals such as wild peacocks, a petting zoo, and views of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Olympic mountain range. The sport of cricket has been played in Beacon Hill Park since the mid-nineteenth century. Each summer, Beacon Hill Park plays host to several outdoor concerts, and the Luminara Community Lantern Festival.
The extensive system of parks in Victoria also includes a few areas of natural Garry oak meadow habitat, an increasingly scarce ecosystem that once dominated the region.
In the heart of downtown are the British Columbia Legislative Buildings, The Empress Hotel, Victoria Police Department Station Museum, the gothic Christ Church Cathedral, and the Royal British Columbia Museum/IMAX National Geographic Theatre, with large exhibits on local Aboriginal peoples, natural history, and modern history, along with travelling international exhibits. In addition, the heart of downtown also has the Emily Carr House, Royal London Wax Museum, Victoria Bug Zoo, Market Square and the Pacific Undersea Gardens, which showcases marine life of British Columbia. The oldest (and most intact) Chinatown in Canada is located within downtown. The Art Gallery of Greater Victoria is located close to downtown in the Rockland neighbourhood several city blocks from Craigdarroch Castle built by industrialist James Dunsmuir and Government House, the official residence of the Lieutenant-Governor of British Columbia.
Numerous other buildings of historic importance or interest are also located in central Victoria, including: the 1845 St. Ann's Schoolhouse; the 1852 Helmcken House built for Victoria's first doctor; the 1863 Temple Emanuel, the oldest synagogue in continuous use in Canada; the 1865 Angela College built as Victoria's first Anglican Collegiate School for Girls, now housing retired nuns of the Sisters of St. Ann; the 1871 St. Ann's Academy built as a Catholic school; the 1874 Church of Our Lord, built to house a breakaway congregation from the Anglican Christ Church cathedral; the 1890 St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church; the 1890 Metropolitan Methodist Church (now the Victoria Conservatory of Music; the 1892 St. Andrew's Cathedral; and the 1925 Crystal Gardens, originally a saltwater swimming pool, restored as a conservatory and most recently a tourist attraction called the B.C. Experience, which closed down in 2006. Victoria is also famous for its Capital Iron Building, which is a prime focus in its downtown core.
North of the city on the Saanich Peninsula is Butchart Gardens, one of the biggest tourist attractions on Vancouver Island, as well as the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory, part of the National Research Council of Canada, Victoria Butterfly Gardens and Centre of the Universe planetarium. Notable museums in Victoria include the Royal British Columbia Museum and the Maritime Museum of British Columbia. There are also numerous National Historic Sites in close proximity to Victoria, such as the Fisgard Lighthouse, Craigflower Manor and Schoolhouse, Hatley Castle and Hatley Park and Fort Rodd Hill, which is a coastal artillery fort built in the late 1890s, located west of the city in Colwood. Also located west of the city is Western Speedway, a 4/10th-mile oval vehicular race track and the largest in Western Canada.
Other Victoria sport teams include:
The city's water is supplied by the Capital Regional District's Water Services Department from its Sooke Lake Reservoir. The lake water is very soft and requires no filtering. It is treated with chlorine, ammonia and ultraviolet light to control micro-organisms.
The Hartland landfill is the waste disposal site for Greater Victoria area. Since 1985, it has been run by the Capital Regional District environmental services. It is located on top of a hill, between Victoria and Sidney, at the end of Hartland Avenue. There is a recycling centre, a sewer solid waste collection, hazardous waste collection, and an electricity generating station. This generating station now creates 1.6 megawatts of electricity, enough for 1,600 homes. The site has won international environmental awards. The CRD conducts public tours of the facility. It is predicted to be full by 2045.
The sewage treatment facilities at Clover and Macaulay points serve most of Victoria. At these facilities, the sewage is screened to exclude objects larger than 6 millimetres prior to release into ocean outfalls. This procedure is heavily criticized, and the CRD is currently planning the upgrading of wastewater treatment practices.
The Saanich Peninsula wastewater treatment plant serves North Saanich, Central Saanich and the Town of Sidney as well as the Victoria International Airport, the Institute of Ocean Sciences and the Tseycum and Pauquachin First Nations communities. This is a secondary level treatment plant which produces Class A biosolids.
Passenger rail service to Victoria is provided by VIA Rail Canada, which operates the Malahat train north, along the eastern coast of Vancouver Island, to the cities of Nanaimo, Courtenay, and points between. There is one daily round trip, departing Victoria in the morning, and returning from Courtenay in the evening.
The Victoria International Airport has non-stop flights to and from Toronto, Salt Lake City, Seattle and many cities throughout Western Canada. Multiple scheduled helicopter and seaplane flights are available daily from Victoria's Inner Harbour to Vancouver International Airport, Vancouver Harbour, and Seattle. The BC Ferries Swartz Bay Ferry Terminal, located 29 kilometres north of Victoria, has hourly sailings to Tsawwassen (a ferry terminal south of Vancouver) and to many of the Gulf Islands. The Washington State Ferry terminal in Sidney provides ferry service to Friday Harbor, Orcas Island, and ultimately Anacortes, Washington. In Victoria's Inner Harbour, an international ferry terminal provides car ferry service (M/V Coho) to Port Angeles, Washington, high-speed catamaran service (Victoria Clipper) to downtown Seattle, and seasonal passenger ferries to destinations in Washington including Friday Harbor, Port Angeles, and Bellingham. Victoria also serves as the western terminus (Mile Zero) for Canada's Trans-Canada Highway, the longest national highway in the world. The Mile Zero is located in the southern part of the city at the corner of Douglas Street and Dallas Road, where there is a small monument.
Direct flights between Victoria and the San Francisco Bay Area (San Francisco, Oakland, Silicon Valley) began service on June 5, 2008 (Victoria Times Colonist, February 6, 2008). Trips will be 2 hours instead of the usual 6 hours because there will be no stop overs in Seattle, as with other flights. The service will be operated by United Airlines, using 66 seat Bombardier CRJ700 aircraft. The same newspaper article also mentions the Victoria Airport Authority's plans for further capacity expansions at the Victoria International Airport. These are expected to offer extended economic benefits to the region, especially the Tourism and High Tech industries. West Jet started a direct flight service to Las Vegas, Nevada, three times per week, on September 9, 2008 (Victoria Times Colonist, May 29, 2008).
The city of Victoria lies entirely within the Greater Victoria School District. There is one high school located within the city boundaries, Victoria High School, founded in 1876, making it the oldest High School in North America north of San Francisco and west of Winnipeg, Manitoba. Most of the elementary schools in Victoria now offer the popular French immersion programmes in addition to programs in English. The educational needs of the local Francophone community are served by the recently-completed Ecole Victor Brodeur. In addition, within the city proper there are several smaller schools serving segments of the community such as the Chinese School in Chinatown, St. Andrew's Elementary School or the Anglican School adjacent to Christ Church Cathedral. Numerous other private schools are located in the municipalities adjacent to Victoria, including St. Michael's University School, Glenlyon Norfolk School, St. Patrick's Elementary School, St. Margaret's School (Victoria) and Pacific Christian School.
The Greater Victoria area has three public post secondary educational institutions: University of Victoria (UVic), Camosun College, and Royal Roads University. There is one international school, in Metchosin Municipality, devoted to the ideals of a united world of peaceful cooperation and coexistence, Lester B. Pearson College of the Pacific. Pearson College is named after former Canadian Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson, a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize and architect of the United Nations Peace Keeping program. There are also several private vocational and English (ESL) training schools available for people who want to learn the English language or upgrade new job market skills. University Canada West is a private degree granting school headed by former UVic President David Strong.
Victoria is the only Canadian provincial capital without a local CBC Television affiliate. The region is considered to be a part of the Vancouver television market, receiving most stations that broadcast from across the Strait of Georgia, including the CBC, CTV, and Global networks.