New Westminster
New Westminster is a city located on the north side of the Fraser River, just east of Vancouver. New Westminster was called Prince Albert and Albert City in the mid-1800s,1 and it later became the first capital of British Columbia.2
Governor Douglas had originally intended that Derby, now Langley, be the capital of British Columbia; however, Colonel Moody inspected Douglas's site and dismissed it as not a militarily defensible city.3 Moody decided that the new capital should be at present-day New Westminster, which Moody called Queenborough.4 However, Douglas found this name distasteful and he wrote to the Colonial Secretary expressing a desire that Queen Victoria should name the capital, mentioning that in the meantime it would be called Queensborough.5
In this despatch, Douglas announces Queen Victoria's decision: By Proclamation Her Majesty's decision and that the Town heretofore known as Queensborough shall, in pursuance of Her Majesty's pleasure, be henceforth called the City of New Westminster.
Douglas spent little time in New Westminster, as he preferred Victoria, where settlers were mainly from England and a strong British presence had been established.6 Douglas would later make Victoria a free port and impose tariffs on imports into New Westminster, thereby stunting New Westminster's economy and moving more commerce to Victoria.7
In 1866, the colonies of British Columbia and Vancouver Island were united as British Columbia, with Victoria declared as the new capital in 1868.8 In 1895, New Westminster was all but destroyed by a fire.9 The Halkomelem People gave the town the name of Skiwy-ee-mihth, meaning where many people died.10 The residents rebuilt the city, and today New Westminster has a population of over 58,000, and is a part of the Greater Vancouver Regional District.11
  • 1. G. P. V. Akrigg and H. B. Akrigg, British Columbia Place Names (Vancouver: UBC Press, 1997), 188.
  • 2. New Westminster, BC Geographical Names Information System.
  • 3. Akrigg, British Columbia Place Names, 188.
  • 4. Ibid.
  • 5. Ibid.
  • 6. Margaret Ormsby, British Columbia, A History (Toronto: Macmillan, 1976), 174.
  • 7. Ibid.
  • 8. Akrigg, British Columbia Place Names, 189.
  • 9. John T. Walbran, British Columbia Coast Names (Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre, 1971), 355.
  • 10. Ibid.
  • 11. New Westminster Demographics, Statistics Canada.
Mentions of this place in the documents