Refuge in BC? Not Quite.

As I go through the process of covering the country, one idea presents itself: taking refuge in B.C. from the inept backwardness of the rest of the nation. This is a pretty common idea among desperate cakers, but B.C. itself isn’t all that pretty when you glimpse beneath the surface.

I’ve already covered the Thompson-Okanagan, and will get to Vancouver and area soon enough.

When people speak of moving to B.C., they almost always mean the Lower Mainland, Greater Vancouver Area or possibly Van island. Most people forget that at least half the province (“north”) is as bad as anywhere else they’re fleeing from.


Not only is it subject to the same terrible winter weather as the other provinces, but it can also boast of terrible poverty, redneck towns, and staggering levels of ineptitude. Having personally lived in northern British Columbia I can tell you it’s as awful as anywhere else.


Let’s begin with some shit town communities.


We’ll start with
Prince George:

It’s the largest city in northern B.C. with a population of just over 70,000 people. A few years back it made it into Maclean’s magazine as Canada’s most dangerous city (a title it held for three years), although by 2016 it had dropped to third place.


21% of children there are living in poverty and over half of single parents are living below the poverty line. The minimum wage is $12.65/hour despite the ‘living wage’ being nearly $17/hour; and (according to a government study) 65% of studied residents were either on social assistance or disability.


Nearby on Highway 16 – known as the Highway of Tears – women (up to 40, according to some groups) have been going missing for decades. There are probably multiple serial killers at work. It’s been argued that little has been done since most of the victims are Aboriginal. And in classic B.C. corruption, whistle-blower Tim Duncan claims emails pertaining to the issue were deleted (he calls the B.C. government a “cesspool”).


Let’s move on to some other shit towns. How about Smithers? A town of less than 6000 people with almost no vacancy rate; an average rental is $750/month; no proper services or access to them. There is limited employment and most people can’t afford to travel anywhere. Basically, a typical northern B.C. town.


How about Hazelton? The village and surrounding district has 627 residents. See: same issues as before, but worse: a poverty rate of 80%. The town’s biggest news and “hope for the future”? An outdoor hockey rink.


What about Vanderhoof? A town with a population less than 5000 people. And more of the usual for B.C.: a nearly 20% “low income” rate; 10% unemployment rate; about 90% of people have to drive. See: same issues as noted above. Women regularly go missing or wind up murdered, and a local serial killer was sentenced a few years ago.


How about Prince Rupert? Its population is just over 13,000 and on the decline. It had a child-poverty rate of 30% in 2016. See: same issues again.


Let’s try Dawson Creek, a city of just under 13,000 people. Like most work in the north (B.C. and elsewhere) the majority of employment is through extraction and a lot of the industry is going to shit. Again, close to 20% of children are living in poverty. See: here we go again.


I could write about another ten shit towns, but why bother? Surely you get the point by now?


Overall, 1 in 5 children live in poverty and it’s been that way for years. As of 2017, it was the second-worst province for child poverty. The province only just now passed a poverty reduction plan/legislation – half assed, as per usual. 


Its affordability is classed as “severe” and is the least affordable of the provinces (generally speaking) for housing and rentals. The average home price is $700k or more. 


The takeway:


Half of British Columbia is encompassed by the “north” which is a collection of barely populated cities and shit towns where unemployment, poverty, and violence are abundant. A lack of proper transit forces people to hitchhike or pay absurd costs to travel. There’s a fair chance if you take risks while travelling you could be killed by serial killers. (With Greyhound stopping its services in Western Canada, there is now no reliable transport in the North – particularly along the ‘Highway of Tears’.)


The main sources of employment are extraction industries, and whenever clean energy comes into use those jobs will be wiped out and northern B.C. will become more of a wasteland than it already is. There’s nothing to see, nowhere to go, no money to get there; a lot of boredom and despair.


The Okanagan is unaffordable except for the wealthy few and has become a cesspool of drug trafficking, addiction and crime. 


Vancouver is extremely expensive and just below Toronto in costs of living. Overall, B.C. is the most expensive place to live despite having a lower minimum wage than four other provinces, and rate close to a couple others. B.C. is jokingly referred to as “Bring Cash”. 


Welcome to B.C., Canada … !