Tuesday, February 27, 2024

BC's Bureaucrats advise government employees and officials against using the term British Columbians

They're shaking their heads at British Columbia once again across Canada, that after a document from the province's bureaucracy noted that government workers and officials should no longer refer to those who live in British Columbia, as British Columbians.

The Conservative publication True North was the first to pick up on the new guidelines, sharing some background to the bureaucratic edict last week.

The internal writing guide related to Indigenous content published by the provincial government notes that people should refrain from referring to themselves as British Columbians

The passage of note from the guidelines observing: 

The term 'British Columbians' is often used to reference people living in B.C. This term excludes Indigenous Peoples who may not identify with it. 

For many, they identify as members of their own sovereign nations and do not consider themselves part of one that has actively worked to assimilate their people. 

 'British Columbians' also excludes other groups such as newcomers and refugees. We recommend instead saying 'people living in B.C.'

As we outlined as part of our MLA's review of the weekend, the topic was one raised by Skeena MLA Ellis Ross last week in the Legislature, who drew attention to the new guidelines in the Thursday morning session.

"The NDP government in our province has introduced a new rule. They're saying calling ourselves "British Columbians" isn't right because it's exclusionary. 

I couldn't believe this until I read it on the website. 

Are you kidding? We're all Canadians, we're all British Columbians, and we've got bigger problems to solve. 

We have a housing crisis. We don't have doctors. We have an affordability problem. Instead of fixing these problems, the NDP is spending time and money trying to control what words British Columbians can and can't use and creating division. 

This effort to erase history and foster division is offensive. 

My question is to the Premier. What are you guys doing?"

Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon, for the most part dismissed the controversy as a distraction from the ongoing work of the province; observing how the Throne speech had made frequent use of the term British Columbians.

"Again, I agree with the member that there are a lot of serious issues that British Columbians are dealing with. It's sad that we're here in question period talking about this topic.

The Premier yesterday used "British Columbians" six times in his responses. I've used "British Columbians" probably five times already in my response. And so nobody is giving anybody…. 

There are no rules being said on what you can say, what you can't say. 

Let's use this time in question period to actually take on the important issues that British Columbians want to talk about."

The Lexicon of identity messaging may remain part of the Bureaucratic guidelines, but it seems unlikely that the majority of those living in the province will be adapting those mandates on language anytime soon.

It also seems unlikely that most politicians in the Legislature will be banish the term "British Columbians" from the volume of information that they share with constituents.

Premier David Eby was still using the term British Columbia as recently as yesterday, speaking on plans to recruit doctors from England for British Columbia health care needs.

The Premier observing of some touches that would make British residents feel at home in  British Columbia,

“We literally have the word British in our name, and they’ll feel very at home here — we’ve got double-decker buses in Victoria, there’s so many wonderful opportunities for British doctors to come here and enjoy everything that our province has to offer,” 

One MLA who may have studied the guidelines is North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice, who in a recent social media dispatch appears to have found the new approach to her liking.

The controversy over language is making for another bit of theatre for the rest of Canada to take in. 

As they often do , they are watching over the Rocky Mountains in bemusement at a part of the nation that they often find  curious when it comes to themes out of the political discourse.

More notes from the Legislature can be reviewed through our archive page.


  1. And he huffed and he puffed and he blew the house down! People come here from other countries and provinces, and people from BC move to other places, and some communities were here long before the British arrived. Living in a province is not like having a nationality.

    Ellis can call himself British if he wants, although I doubt that anyone in the UK would regard him as such and some would find it a bit odd. I think that we should return the name, and the Union Jack on the provincial flag while we're at it, just like 'Queen Charlotte' was returned because it was no longer required. We can figure out some non-colonial symbols that reflect our diversity.

    1. This constant reference to colonialism itself is divisive. History is what it is and we were all born into this earth and inherited what we found. This province was named BC and that’s what it is. Proud to have been born and raised here as a Canadian, not a British resident or descendant. Referring to those who established this society in our name is not a bad thing. Our current society does back flips in acknowledging indigenous culture and that can co-exist with non-indengous culture and history.

    2. Acknowledging the colonial legacy and viewing this country as a work in progress isn't "divisive", it's part of "history is what it is", whether its our highest court being in Ottawa rather than Whitehall (1949), Canadian passports (also 1949), the Maple Flag (1966), our own Constitution (1982), ceasing to be "British subjects" (1983) ... down to details like replacing imperial heraldry with a Canadian Royal Crown (approved by Charles III last year). I don't know why you frame these transitions as being about indigenous and non-indigenous.

    3. In one instance you refer to the renaming of Queen Charlotte City to Daajing Giids as necessary in reflecting our diversity and moving away from non-colonial symbols and in the other you question why I’m framing this issue and indigenous vs non-indigenous.

      I’d argue that you, and others, are the ones framing this as that and are creating a divide because of your intolerance of European history in our societal culture. It is there and you can’t erase it as much as you’d want to. Although it’s obvious that the effort to erase this is there and it’s terrifying. One only needs to look at the dismantling of “Old Town” at th le Royal BC Museum. Now we get to look at more totem poles. They’re nice but theyre not reflective of our full history.

    4. I didn't say that returning the name Queen Charlotte was "necessary". It's an example of people choosing to move on from the colonial past. Why oppose that? Daajing Giids is a good example because the municipality isn't aboriginal or non-aboriginal, it represents whoever lives there.

      I'm not "intolerant" of or trying to erase European history in our societal culture. I just don't think that it should be privileged - that's really what this all about - and I have no problems with being more inclusive. As for Old Town, it hasn't been dismantled. The Museum has added new stories, and I look forward to learning a fuller account of our history.

    5. You said that “Queen Charlotte was no longer required.” When something is no longer required it becomes unnecessary. I don’t remove that I’m wrong in saying that you claimed the change was necessary.

      You don’t get a full account of history by erasing a good portion of it. That itself is intolerant. Why do we need to move on from our colonial past? It’s part of our history, and the roots in North American for many, as well as part of world history. The world was a different place and we were all born into this world as it is. None of us would have done it any differently if we lived in those times.

      There is no privilege in our history but there’s only so many arrowheads, totem poles and oral history that can fill up a museum.

  2. Bunch of morons running B.C.

  3. When is the government going to do something about the term “lazy susan”.
    “Ambitious susan” is more inclusive.
    Your move NDP.

    1. And when did anyone in government or the civil service ever call anyone a "lazy susan"? Your move.

    2. Manhole covers will now have to be referred to as people hole covers

    3. Think twice about using the word "move".
      Mobility impaired individuals may feel the term is discriminatory.

    4. They're increasingly called "maintenance covers" because that's more descriptive of their purpose.