The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary







This article refers to the city in British Columbia, Canada. Vancouver can also refer to Vancouver, Washington, USA, a suburb of Portland, Oregon. For other uses, see Vancouver (disambiguation).
 Downtown Vancouver's , looking southeast
Downtown Vancouver's skyline, looking southeast

Vancouver, British Columbia
(In Detail ) (In Detail )
Motto: By sea, land and air we prosper
 - 2001 Census:
 - 2004 est:

 - Cdn. Mun. Rank: Ranked 8th
 Area: 114.67 km²
 Pop. Density: 5086/km²
Metro Area
 Pop. 2004 est. 2,132,824
 - Cdn. CMA Rank: Ranked 3rd
 Area: 2,878.52 km²
 Pop. Density: 740.9/km²
Time zone Pacific: UTC-8
Libby Davies, Ujjal Dosanjh, David Emerson, Hedy Fry, Stephen Owen
Val Anderson , Gordon Campbell, Colin Hansen , Ken Johnston , Jenny Wai, Ching Kwan , Joy MacPhail, Lorne Mayencourt , Rob Nijjar , Patrick Wong
Mayor Larry Campbell
Governing body Vancouver City Council
City of Vancouver

Vancouver is a Canadian city in the province of British Columbia. It is the largest metropolitan centre in western Canada and third largest in Canada. It is home to 583,296 in the city itself and 2,132,824 in the metropolitan area [1]. Vancouver is one of the cities of the Greater Vancouver Regional District (GVRD) and of the larger geographic region commonly known as the Lower Mainland of BC. The current mayor is Larry Campbell, Coalition of Progressive Electors (see List of Mayors of Vancouver). Vancouver will be the host city for the 2010 Winter Olympics, 2005 Grey Cup, the 2006 World Junior Hockey Championship and the 2006 World Urban Forum.


Geography and Location

Vancouver is situated at 4916′ N 1237′ W, in the Pacific Time Zone (UTC-8), and the Pacific Maritime Ecozone. It is adjacent to the Strait of Georgia, a body of water that is shielded from the Pacific Ocean by Vancouver Island. Some unfamiliar with the region find it disconcerting that Vancouver does not lie on Vancouver Island. However, both the city and the island (and their American counterpart) are named after Captain George Vancouver of Great Britain, who explored the region in 1792. Vancouver has an area of 114.67km&sup2 (44 sq. miles). Vancouver has both flat and hilly areas. While it is nearly surrounded by water, city lands are relatively free of open running water except for a few creeks. Early records show that there may have been as many as fifty creeks and streams in Vancouver. Due to urban developements, currently there are only four running creeks found within the city (see Bodies of water in Vancouver).


An aboriginal settlement called Xwmthkwyiem, ("Musqueam"—from masqui "an edible grass that grows in the sea"), near the mouth of the Fraser River dates back to at least 3,000 years ago. Vancouver's ecosystem, with its abundant plant and animal life, provides a wealth of food and materials that have likely supported people for over 10,000 years. At the time of first European contact, the Musqueam and Squamish peoples had villages in the areas around present-day Vancouver. There is also evidence of a third group, the Tsleil'wauthuth, ancestors of today's Burrard Band in North Vancouver. These were Coast Salish First Nations sharing cultural traits with people in the Fraser Valley and Northern Washington. Halkomelem was the common language of the river people; the Squamish spoke a different dialect.

The Native peoples of the Northwest Coast had achieved a very high a level of cultural complexity for a food gathering base. As Bruce Macdonald notes in Vancouver: a visual history: "Their economic system encouraged hard work, the accumulation of wealth and status and the redistribution of wealth..." Winter villages, in what is now known as Vancouver, were comprised of large plankhouses made of Western Red Cedar wood. Gatherings called potlatches were common in the summer and winter months when the spirit powers were active. These ceremonies were an important part of the social and spiritual life of the people.

Spanish Captain Jose Maria Narvaez was the first European to explore the Strait of Georgia in 1791. In the following year, 1792, the British naval Captain George Vancouver (1757-1798) from King's Lynn in Norfolk joined the Spanish expedition based at Nootka Sound on Vancouver Island's west coast and further explored the Strait of Georgia, as well as the Puget Sound in the present day Seattle area.

Lumbering was the early industry along Burrard Inlet, now the site of Vancouver's seaport. The first sawmill began operating in 1863 at Moodyville (in 1915, renamed "North Vancouver"). The first export of lumber took place in 1865; this lumber was shipped to Australia. By 1865 the first sawmill, Stamp's Mill, started in what was to become the City of Vancouver.

In 1870, the colonial government of British Columbia surveyed the community officially known as Granville. It was sited immediately west of Stamp's Mill and commonly known as Gastown, a name that survives today.

In 1885 Granville was selected by the Canadian Pacific Railway to be the western terminus of the transcontinental railway commissioned by the government of Canada under the leadership of Prime Minister Sir John A. MacDonald. (This led to Vancouver's infrequently used nickname, Terminal City). The CPR selected the new name "Vancouver", in part because the existence of Vancouver Island nearby would help identify the location to easterners. On April 6, 1886, the city was incorporated under that name; the first regular transcontinental train from Montreal arrived at a temporary terminus at Port Moody in July 1886, and service to Vancouver itself began in May 1887.

A fire devastated much of the city on June 13, 1886, but with the arrival of the railway, Vancouver soon recovered and began to grow rapidly due to access to Canadian markets. Additionally, as part of the agreement to join the Confederation, British Columbia's debt of approximately $1,000,000 was paid in full by the Canadian government, creating additional business opportunities.


Vancouver is internationally renowned for preserving its natural beauty within the metropolis. Vancouver is home to one of North America's largest urban parks, Stanley Park. The city has all the urban amenities of a major city, as well as easy access to the Pacific Ocean and the mountains of the Pacific Coast Range. Real estate is largely limited by the surrounding mountains and water. The North Shore mountains dominate the city landscape, and on a clear day many scenic views are visible: the dormant 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 Sunshine Coast to the northwest. Breathtaking views can be seen from many locations in and around the city.


Vancouver's climate is unusually temperate by Canadian standards; it is the second warmest major city in Canada during the winter. The temperature and weather are similar to that of Seattle (Vancouver's nearest major American neighbour). Summer months are usually sunny and the temperatures moderate, with the daily maximum averaging 22°C (74°F) in July and August. Spring and autumn are generally rainy and cool. Rainfall is frequent in winter. Snow occurs in the surrounding mountains but rarely at sea level, though there are winters in which the city receives enough snowfall to cause school closures. The daily average temperature in January is 3°C (37°F). On average, 166 days per year have measurable precipitation, and 289 days per year have measurable sunshine. For a few nights near the summer solstice each June, the northern sky remains slightly lit by the sun, and nightime lasts only about 6 hours.

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
AVERAGE Daily Minimum (°C) 0.5 1.5 3.1 5.3 8.4 11.2 13.2 13.4 10.5 6.6 3.1 0.8
AVERAGE Daily Maximum (°C) 6.1 8.0 10.1 13.1 16.5 19.2 21.7 21.9 18.7 13.5 9.0 6.2
EXTREME Daily Minimum (°C) -17.8 -16.1 -9.4 -3.3 0.6 3.9 6.7 6.1 0.0 -5.9 -14.3 -17.8
EXTREME Daily Maximum (°C) 15.3 18.4 19.4 25.0 30.4 30.6 31.9 33.3 29.3 23.7 18.4 14.9

AVERAGE Precipitation (mm) 154 123 114 84 68 55 40 39 54 113 181 176
AVERAGE Total Snow (cm) 17 10 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 16
AVERAGE Hours of Sunshine 55 87 132 172 237 242 296 265 189 124 67 54
Data[2] is for Vancouver Airport (YVR), just south of the City of Vancouver


Vancouver sunset
Vancouver sunset

Vancouver is a relaxed city with many diversions and easy access to outdoor activities such as hiking, cycling, boating, and skiing. There is a lively cultural scene. Some have called it a "city of neighbourhoods", each with its own distinctive character.

Vancouver can be an expensive city, as housing prices are among the highest in Canada. Various strategies aim to lessen housing costs. These include cooperative housing, suites, increased density and smart growth. Nevertheless, as with many other cities on the west coast of North America, homelessness is a concern, as is the growing gulf between rich and poor. The Downtown Eastside is a well-known problematic neighbourhood, with its disadvantaged and displaced populations, high occurrences of substance abuse, and a relatively high crime rate. However, the neighbourhood has a rich and colourful history and a strong fabric of community. In recent years there have been tensions between developers and members of the community relating to proposals for gentrification.

Vancouver's population density on the downtown peninsula is as high as 20,000 people per square kilometre. The density of the city itself is third highest on North America, after New York City and San Francisco. City planners in the late 1950s and 1960s deliberately encouraged the development of high-rise condominium towers in the "West End" downtown neighborhood, which has resulted in a compact, walkable and transit/bike friendly urban core. A major downtown condominium construction boom throughout the late 1990s (mainly caused by the huge capital flow from Hong Kong prior to the hand-over) and early 2000s has resulted in real estate values gaining as much as 10-15% per year.

Vancouver was reported in 2004 to have the third-highest crime rate in Canada. The same report noted that Vancouver's violent-crime rate was low but its property-crime rate (partially a consequence of drug addiction centered in the Downtown Eastside) was second only to Tampa, Florida in North America. One of the most common property crimes in the Vancouver area is automobile break-in; thus visitors are advised to conceal all items left in their car, and to use auto-theft protection devices.


Vancouver is home to people of many ethnic backgrounds and religions. According to the 2001 census, 37% of Metropolitan Vancouver's population are "visible minorities" -- in other words, people of non-European backgrounds. Vancouver contains the second largest Chinatown in North America (after San Francisco's), and many multicultural neighbourhoods such as the Punjabi Market, Japantown, Little Italy, Greektown, and Koreatown which is developing synergy around Robson and Denman Streets in the West End. Street signs bilingual in English and Chinese or Punjabi can be seen at these centres of ethnic concentration. Prior to the hand-over of Hong Kong to China in 1997, many immigrants from Hong Kong made Vancouver their home, giving it the controversial nickname Hongcouver. This continued a tradition of immigrants flocking from all around the world to call Vancouver home. Statistics Canada data shows that 17% of the roughly 2 million population of the census metropolitan area is ethnic Chinese. [3]

The city has a bustling music and art scene, one of the largest gay communities in North America, and innovative approaches to drug issues. The Four Pillars Drug Strategy combines harm reduction (needle exchanges, safe injection sites) with prevention, treatment, and enforcement. The strategy is largely a response to the explosive outbreaks of HIV and Hepatitis C centered in the city's downtown eastside. The area is characterised by entrenched poverty, the commercial sex trade and the worst AIDS epidemic in the developed world. Marijuana laws are generally unenforced within the city region allowing several "marijuana cafes" to open, earning it the name the Amsterdam of the North, or Vansterdam.

Vancouver is relatively free of racial tension; every ethnic group is represented in every social class. One result is a relatively high rate of intermarriage; trans-ethnic couples are unremarkable in any neighbourhood.


Vancouver is Canada's largest port and one of North America's gateways for Pan-Pacific trade. It ranks first in North America in total foreign exports and also first on the West Coast in total cargo volume. [4]

"Hollywood North," as the city has been called, hosts the production of approximately ten percent of Hollywood's movies. Many American television and films series are shot exclusively in Vancouver. This has partly been because of the favorable Canadian Dollar exchange rate.

Tourism is a vital industry to Vancouver. Whistler, BC, 126 kilometres north of Vancouver, is among the most popular skiing resorts in North America, and will be the site of the downhill events in the 2010 Winter Olympics. Grouse Mountain, Mount Seymour, and Cypress Mountain, each with a variety of summer and winter leisure activities, are within 30 km drive of downtown Vancouver and all have bird's-eye views of Vancouver and the surrounding region. The city's numerous beaches, parks, waterfronts, and mountain backdrop, combined with its cultural and multi-ethnic character, all contribute to its unique appeal and style. Over a million people annually pass through Vancouver en route to a cruise-ship vacation, usually to Alaska.

The 1986 World Exposition was held in Vancouver.


The mild climate of the city and close proximity to ocean, mountains, rivers and lakes make the area a popular destination for outdoor recreationists. The north shore mountains are home to three ski hills - Cypress Bowl, Grouse Mountain, Mount Seymour - each within 10 to 30 minutes of downtown. Mountain bikers have created world-renowned trails across the north shore. Three rivers - Capilano River, Lynn Creek , Seymour River - each within 10 minutes of downtown provide opportunities to whitewater enthusiasts during periods of rain and spring melt.

Government and politics

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. The last elections were held in November 2002. The leftist Coalition of Progressive Electors (COPE) swept the elections, winning 8 of 10 Council seats, 7 of 9 School Board seats and 5 of 7 Parks Board seats. The centre-right Non-Partisan Association (NPA) was reduced to 2 Council seats, 1 School Board seat and 2 Parks Board seats. The Vancouver Green Party won 1 School Board Seat.

In the race for mayor, the COPE's Larry Campbell defeated Jennifer Clarke of the NPA by a margin of 58% to 30%.

In the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia, Vancouver has ten constituencies: In the 2001 provincial election, the BC Liberal Party won 8 seats, while the BC New Democratic Party won two.

In the Canadian House of Commons, Vancouver has five constituencies: In the 2004 federal elections, the Liberal Party of Canada won four seats, while the New Democratic Party won one.

Historically, in all levels of government, the more affluent west side of Vancouver has voted along conservative or centre-right lines while the working-class eastern side of the city has voted along left-wing lines.

Municipal election

A proposal to change Vancouver's council elections to run on a ward basis (like most major Canadian cities) rather than its current at-large system was rejected by the populace in a plebiscite on October 16, 2004, possibly due to the increased costs of the ward system. It should be noted that only 22% of city residents cast a ballot in this referendum; however, the plebiscite on whether or not to hold the 2010 Olympic Winter Games only drew 30%.


The Greater Vancouver Regional District (GVRD) operates a regional rapid transit system, under the auspices of TransLink, an organization which is responsible for all aspects of municipal transportation, including roads and ferries within the GVRD. There is frequent bus service throughout Greater Vancouver. A foot passenger and bicycle ferry service (known as SeaBus) crosses Burrard Inlet to North Vancouver, while a two-line automated metro system, the SkyTrain, the world's longest automated light rapid transit system, links the downtown underground station to the suburbs of Burnaby, New Westminster, and Surrey. The West Coast Express, a commuter rail train serves Port Moody, Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam, Pitt Meadows, Maple Ridge, and Mission. These services have an integrated ticketing system, making public transport cheap and efficient. In addition, private companies operate leisure-oriented passenger ferry services, around False Creek. HarbourLynx provides passenger-only ferry service from Vancouver harbour to Nanaimo harbour on Vancouver Island.

Bus service operates throughout the region. Most buses are wheelchair accessible and a large number carry bike racks, able to carry two wheelchairs and bicycles respectively. Some buses which operate from overhead electrical trolley wires do not carry bicycle racks. It is worth noting that Vancouver is among the last of a few cities in North America which still have trolley buses operating on their streets. Certain diesel commuter buses which travel to the suburbs have bicycle racks, wheelchair lifts, and comfortable high back Greyhound-style seats. Frequency in Greater Vancouver ranges from every few minutes within the City of Vancouver to two to three trips a day to Maple Ridge and Aldergrove.

There is an extensive network of bike paths that provide east/west and north/south routes from one end of the city to the other. Each of the major bike paths has signal control to permit cyclists easy crossing of major arterial roads. Some of the bike paths are on streets that have extensive traffic calming measures such as traffic circles. Neighbourhoods are encouraged to plant and care for the circles and boulevards and add public art along bike routes. The Stanley Park seawall is also a popular recreational bicycle route.

Municipal bylaws and geography have protected Vancouver from the spread of urban freeways, and the only freeway within city limits is Highway 1, which passes through the eastern edge of the city. All other limited-access routes entering the city (Highway 99, Knight Street, Grant MacConachie Way, the Lions Gate Bridge, etc) promptly cease being freeways once they enter Vancouver's city limits.

Vancouver is served by Vancouver International Airport, located on Sea Island in the City of Richmond, immediately south of Vancouver. The airport (YVR) the second busiest in nation and one of the busiest international airports on the West Coast. The Richmond-Airport-Vancouver Line (RAV), a new SkyTrain line, set for completion in 2009, is planned to connect the airport and the City of Richmond to downtown Vancouver. A heliport and seaplane dock on Burrard Inlet link downtown directly to Victoria and YVR. Vancouver is also served by two B.C. Ferry terminals, one to the northwest near the village of Horseshoe Bay, and one to the south, at Tsawwassen (the flagship terminal), linking the mainland to Vancouver Island and other nearby islands.


Vancouver consistently ranks in the top 5 in worldwide rankings. The city ranked second (2002, 2003) and third (2004) in a worldwide quality of life survey of 215 cities, conducted by Mercer Human Resource Consulting.

Vancouver generally ranks number #1 when compared to its Canadian and American peers. Vancouver has tied for first with the cities of Salzburg and Oslo among the UN chosen cities for highest living standards the last 4 years running.

Sites of interest

Notable buildings within the city include Christ Church Cathedral, the Hotel Vancouver (now part of the Fairmont chain), the Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia (with a world-class collection of Native American art including work by Bill Reid), and the Vancouver Art Gallery (notable collections include illustrations by Chagall and paintings by Emily Carr). There are several striking modern buildings in the downtown area, including the Vancouver Law Courts and surrounding plaza known as Robson Square (Arthur Erickson, architect) and the Vancouver Library Square (Moshe Safdie, architect), reminiscent of the Colosseum in Rome. Currently topping the list of tallest buildings in Vancouver is One Wall Centre at 150 m and 48 stories. This will be eclipsed by several new skyscrapers[5] in the coming years, including the new 196 m tall, 60 story Living Shangri-La tower[6], currently under construction. Despite new tower construction, Vancouver is a relatively low high-rise city when compared to other Canadian cities like Montreal, Toronto, and Calgary. Traditional limits on tower height as well as protective view cone restrictions have ensured that no existing buildings are remarkably tall.

Interesting places

Some well-known neighbourhoods and other interesting places within the city include the following:

  • East Hastings Street (also known as the Downtown Eastside)
  • the downtown peninsula, including:
    • Gastown, with brick streets and original buildings reflecting Vancouver's history
    • Chinatown, including the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen classical Chinese garden, the Chinese Cultural Centre, shops, restaurants, and open-air markets. The SkyTrain station, Chinatown-Stadium, is located less than two blocks from Keefer Street in Chinatown
    • the West End, one of the most densely populated areas of North America, including access to English Bay, Sunset Beach, and Stanley Park including the Vancouver Aquarium
    • Robson Street, a hip fashionable shopping and dining district
    • Granville Mall , a pedestrian street, characterized by blazing neon signs and a 24/7 urban scene in the centre of downtown is a hip area of danceclubs, bars, theatres, concert halls, shoppes, and restaurants. It is also the main transfer area for many of the TransLink buses and has its own underground SkyTrain station.
    • Burrard Street is home to high fashion retail, posh hotels, and—interestingly enough—the Financial District. There is an underground SkyTrain station near the end of the street, in the middle of the Financial District.
    • Yaletown and Coal Harbour neighbourhoods (previously industrial areas, now reclaimed with high-end residential high-rises, danceclubs, restaurants, and bars)
    • Sports arenas BC Place Stadium and GM Place, home to major sports teams like the BC Lions and the Vancouver Canucks as well as major touring concerts and gatherings. The Chinatown-Stadium SkyTrain station is the closest rapid transit access.
  • False Creek, one of Vancouver's first planned condominium neighborhoods, on the site of what was the largest lumber mill in the city.
  • Kitsilano, including Greektown, Kits Beach and the Planetarium
  • Kerrisdale, a cozy, relaxed neighborhood in the southwest, with sushi-bars galore.
  • West Point Grey , the westernmost neighborhood of Vancouver where you can relax on one of the many beaches.
  • Queen Elizabeth Park (the highest point in Vancouver) known as Little Mountain. The park was at one time a gravel quarry. The Bloedel Conservatory and the Quarry Garden are situated near the peak.
  • VanDusen Botanical Garden, a 22-hectare garden in the middle of the city with guided tours offered daily, major events include the yearly garden show and the winter Festival of Lights .
  • Granville Island, including artist galleries and a bustling fresh food market. Tiny passenger ferries known as the "Aquabus" connect Granville Island to the downtown core.
  • Commercial Drive ("The Drive") for Little Italy, arts, restaurants, cafes, and "multiethnic" shopping; also a major stop on the SkyTrain (Commercial Drive Station)
  • the Punjabi Market/Little India along Main Street around 49th Ave, for South Asian savors and treasures
  • The University of British Columbia campus and adjacent parklands, including clothing-optional Wreck Beach, the huge Pacific Spirit Regional Park, the Museum of Anthropology, and the UBC Botanical Garden and Centre for Plant Research. The University of British Columbia also operates the TRIUMF particle/nuclear physics laboratory.
  • The Pacific National Exhibition (PNE) grounds, located in Hastings Park , is the site of the annual fair of the same name held at the end of August. It also has exhibition buildings and the coluseum, used for concerts and where the Vancouver Giants play
  • Playland, sharing its location with the PNE, is the city's amusement park and operates from April to September every year.

Colleges and universities

Vancouver and its adjacent communities are the home of two major universities, the University of British Columbia (UBC) and Simon Fraser University (SFU), as well as a number of community colleges. The British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT) provides polytechnic education and grants degrees in several fields. Each of these institutions has a small campus in downtown Vancouver to complement their main facilities. Vancouver Community College (VCC), Capilano College , and Langara College also serve Vancouver's post-secondary education needs with career, trade, and university-transfer programs. Vancouver is also home to Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design. There are numerous other private institutions in the city.

Professional sports teams

Former professional sport teams


See List of Vancouver media outlets.

Miscellaneous topics

Sister cities

The City of Vancouver one of the first cities to ever enter into a international "twinning" arrangement when, in 1944, it twinned with Odessa, which at the time was part of the Soviet Union. This was based on aiding the then allied port city. Since then the City of Vancouver has created special arrangements for cultural, social and economic benefits with the following cities:

Nuclear weapons free zone

In 1983, the City of Vancouver was one of the first cities in the world to declare itself a "Nuclear Weapons Free Zone". City Council has amended its policies and erected signage to this effect [7]. This is mostly a symbolic declaration, as the City has no jurisdiction over visiting military ships in the harbour.

Municipalities in Greater Vancouver

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, housing, transportation, and regional parks.

Relative locations to surrounding area

Northwest: Sunshine Coast North: Whistler,
West Vancouver,
North Vancouver
West: Pacific Ocean,
Vancouver Island,
Strait of Georgia,
Electoral Area A
Vancouver East: Burnaby,
New Westminster,
Fraser Valley
South: Richmond,
Southeast: Surrey,
State of Washington, USA


  • Macdonald, B. 1992. Vancouver: a visual history. Vancouver: TALONBOOKS.

See also

External links

The contents of this article are licensed from under the GNU Free Documentation License. How to see transparent copy