Vancouver Island has a population of 760,000 people and half of those people live in the metropolitan area of Greater Victoria. The city of Vancouver is not on the Island but is situated across the Strait of Georgia on the mainland. The city of Victoria has a population of 86,000 people and is the capital city of Vancouver Island. It is the 7th most densely populated city in Canada. The city was named after the British monarch Queen Victoria and building began in 1843. The city is at the centre of the Islands transport network with the airport and ferry terminals connecting it with the mainland. Despite its density it is known as the “Garden City” and it retains many of the older buildings that were constructed in the 19th century. The population of the city originally grew as a result of people coming to the Island for the fur trade but there was a real influx of people into the city when gold was discovered on the Island at Frazer Canyon and this resulted in the population of Victoria rising from 300 to 5000 in just a few days. In 1862 it was made the capital city of Victoria. Being the main city on the Island there are many jobs in administration and education. However the largest revenue generating industry currently is the technology sector. The city is a popular tourist destination with over 3.5 million visitors each year. There is a wide diversity of cultures in the city with large numbers of First Nations, Metis and Inuit indigenous people. The city is home to two Universities and it is in the top 20 of the world’s top cities to live in. The second city of Vancouver Island is Nanaimo with a population of 91,000 people and is located 110 km to the north of Victoria. It originally grew as a trading centre and a port town, as coal was discovered in the region in the 1850’s.
In fact there were many coal mines in the immediate area and in 1887 the Nanaimo coal explosion killed 150 miners, with another 100 miners losing their lives the following year. Today the coal industry has disappeared and has been replaced by other large employers such as the forestry industry, the provincial government and the tourist industry. The city has the main ferry port to the rest of Western Canada so receives many visitors passing through on route to visit the rest of the Island. The city is moving more towards being a cultural centre with a rich mix of ethnic populations. The only city in the Comox valley is Courtney which has a population of 21,000 people. For centuries Courtney was the home of the Comox people, as the areas had rich agricultural and fishing grounds. When the first European settlers arrived in the area in 1862 they used the local people as laborers for farming the land. Discovery of coal in 1864 led more people arriving in the area and the settlement of Courtney grew. The main economic industries were based on forestry, mining and hunting but as they have now become more controlled in the area, tourism is becoming the major employer and also the caring for retired families who are attracted to the region. Vancouver Island is an area dominate by wilderness but it does have a major population living in one of the most attractive locations in the world. Most of the major populations however, are situated on the eastern side of the island as the west is simply too wild.
The high quality of life associated with being a resident on the Island makes it a popular place to live and work. These urban centres are vital in controlling and regulating the industries associated with the wilderness, so that many people have the opportunity to visit and appreciate the beauty of the Island without damaging it.