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To the extent anybody deserves to be known to history as the "Father of British Columbia," it certainly would be Sir James Douglas. Arriving in British Canadian territory as a teenager intent on making a living in the fur industry, Douglas can be considered quite a remarkable figure. Arriving in Canada in 1819, he played an important role in establishing the North West Company's position in the fur trade, all the while becoming a self-educated man. When the North West Company was merged with its rival, the Hudson Bay Company, Douglas worked his way up the new entity's hierarchy. During this period of Douglas' life, he was based primarily in Ontario and Alberta provinces.
Douglas' arrival in what is now British Columbia was the result of a controversial incident in which he may have been responsible for the extra-judicial killing of a Native American suspected of murdering two of the company's fur traders. In British Columbia, he continued his rise in the Hudson Bay Company, expanding the company's interests and fending off American encroachment on British colonial territory. Douglas' role in developing the economy of British Columbia cannot be overstated, and his appointment as governor of Vancouver Island cemented his legacy as the single most influential figure in Western Canada's history. His successful efforts at restricting U.S. expansion at British expense while dealing with the Native American population -- his wife was Cree and he maintained a number of business arrangements with Native tribes -- and overseeing the creation of the infrastructure necessary to support the region's growing role in the British and later Canadian economies was enormous.
Douglas' 1858 appointment as governor of the Colony of British Columbia and the development of the region as a major part of British colonial interests in North America made him the single most important figure in British Columbian history, and his sobriquet as "Father of British Columbia" is welll-deserved. Whether the First Nations would agree, of course, is an entirely other matter.
[Most of this information was drawn from Dorothy Blakey Smith's biography James Douglas: Father of British Columbia, 1971]
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