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Let’s Rename Canada’s Pacific Province

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A grassroots campaign to rename Canada’s Pacific province

Cordillerans for a Non-British Non-Columbia (CNBNC) is a group of concerned citizens dedicated to the proposition that Canada’s Pacific province is neither British nor Columbian and therefore deserves a more appropriate and more descriptive name than the one it currently bears. Visit our website for a more detailed version of the argument presented here.

“British Columbia”: A double misnomer

Why is our province called Columbia? That is a literary name for the Western Hemisphere, based on the fanciful idea that Christopher Columbus “discovered” this side of the world. Today, of course, we recognize the Eurocentric arrogance that underwrites such notions. Columbus himself did not believe he had discovered anything more than a new route to the Orient, for which he mistook the western shores of the Atlantic. Not only did he never lay eyes on our province, but he denied the very possibility of its existence, claiming that only an unbroken ocean separated Portugal from Japan.

Why is our province called British? Queen Victoria tacked the adjective onto the noun when the Colony of British Columbia was established in 1858. There were no more than a few hundred Brits here at the time, and they were vastly outnumbered by the thousands of Americans drawn north in the Gold Rush of 1858, who in turn were vastly outnumbered by the tens of thousands of Aboriginal inhabitants. The colony became a Canadian province when it joined Confederation in 1871, so that Britain’s claim to the place lasted a grand total of thirteen years, or roughly 0.1 percent of the time that the land has been inhabited.

“Cordillera”: As fitting a name as a geographer could bestow

In light of these facts, we hope you will agree that it’s time for a change. However, the thought did occur that it’s easy to tear down and more difficult to build up, so we racked our brains for a great while–well, at least five minutes–and came up with the perfect name for our beloved province. That name, of course, is Cordillera (pronounced core-dill-AIR-uh—please note that of the three accepted pronunciations this is the only one endorsed by the CNBNC).

Those of you who recall your physical geography will already grasp what a bang-on name it is. According to the New Oxford American Dictionary, a cordillera is “a system or group of parallel mountain ranges together with the intervening plateaus and other features” (such as valleys, rivers, and lakes). Sound familiar? No wonder geographers place British Columbia within Canada’s “Pacific cordillera.” Semantically speaking, we defy anyone to come up with a name that sums up this magnificent province even half as well.

“Cordillera”: As lovely a name as a poet could desire

However, the real clincher, the quality that makes Cordillera such an obvious, such an inevitable choice, is that, unlike the ugly mouthful Brit•ish Co•lum•bi•a, it just sounds so sweet! Four syllables, with the minor and major accents falling on the first and third syllables, respectively, and as luck would have it on two of the widest, openest vowel sounds the English language has to offer. If you’re a poet or a songwriter, a singer or an orator, it doesn’t get any better than that. You don’t have to take our word for it, either. Just have a listen to the theme song of the Cordillera Campaign. Like what you hear? Then, sign the petition!



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