1885 Map showing Police Station in Bastion Square, UBC Specal collections G 3514-V5G475 1885 s2.  For a larger version, go to the Maps section. Songhees Reserve and Victoria Harbour, BCA: F-09568

Gold rush Victoria attracted prospectors from around the world. This mixed population brought to Victoria different and often conflicting notions of race. The two major factions of Victorian society were American miners and British settlers both holding different notions towards the First Nations and Chinese populations.

While American experience of the California Gold Rush was one with little government administration and official law, overt racism was commonplace. This racism had its roots in the miner’s competition with the First Nations for prime land on which to mine. In contrast to the gold rush experience on the Fraser River where racism was often institutionalized, in California it was precisely the lack of a controlling governmental democratic framework that provided a perfect breeding ground for nativism and racism. Where racism was commonly practiced in both regions, it was of a particularly violent nature in California. British Columbia experienced racism in a more institutionalized manner where violence took a back seat to discrimination.

British Columbia, in contrast to the American experience of the Californian gold rush, was governed with official law. Largely preventing overt racism while harbouring subtle paternalistic discrimination, British colonial rule was largely as products of the humanitarian enlightenment of the mid nineteenth century. British rule was designed in theory to be one of benevolence and sympathy in regards to the local native and immigrant populations. Through assimilation, rather then extermination in the American model, it was thought the “Indian problem” could be solved. As said by Merivale, permanent under-secretary of the British colonies, “amalgamation, by some means or other, is the only possible Euthanasia of savage communities”.



  • British Colonist, INJUSTICE TO THE COLORED POPULATION, Friday, June 10th, 1859
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