RBCM Archives

Vancouver Island. Legislative Assembly

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Vancouver Island. Legislative Assembly

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  • Legislative Assembly

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Dates of existence



The Legislative Assembly of the Colony of Vancouver Island was established in 1856 under its first name, the General Assembly (also known as the House of Assembly), after Governor James Douglas was reminded by the Colonial Office to establish an assembly of landowners as authorized in his 1851 commission. Prior to that, the government of the colony was administered, first, by the Hudson’s Bay Company and, secondly, solely by the 3-member Council appointed by Richard Blanshard in 1851.

By proclamation, dated 16 June 1856, Douglas announced the process by which the election of an Assembly would take place in the four designated electoral districts of Victoria, Esquimalt, Sooke and Nanaimo. The first House of Assembly was opened in August 1856 with seven members. The purpose of the Assembly was to represent the wishes of the general population to the governor and council on the provision of laws and legislation for the colony.

The second election, held in 1859, reflected the change in status of the colony resulting from the termination of its grant with the Hudson’s Bay Company and, at the same time, the influx of population resulting from the Fraser River gold rush and the establishment of the Colony of British Columbia. Three acts were passed to standardize election procedures. The Registration of Voters Act outlined the procedures for compiling voters’ lists, the Representation Act established electoral boundaries and representation for seats in the Legislative Assembly, and the Franchise Act established qualifications for voters. The Franchise Act also defined the duration of the House of Assembly as three years. The Representation Act provided for an increase in members to thirteen, including more members from Victoria and Esquimalt and adding representatives from parts of the colony north of Victoria (including the Lake District, Saanich, Salt Spring, and Chemainus districts).

In 1863, the governor, again under instruction from the Colonial Office, introduced a new government structure for the Colony of Vancouver Island. He dissolved the 3-member Council and replaced it with an Executive Council (5 members including the governor) and a Legislative Council (15 appointed members including 5 selected from the Legislative Assembly). The Assembly continued in its function as representative government with an increase to fifteen constituencies. It was increasingly referred to as the Legislative Assembly from this time.

When the colonies of Vancouver Island and British Columbia were united in 1866, the government administration for the Colony of Vancouver Island ceased to exist. The power and authority of the Executive and Legislative Councils of the Colony of British Columbia was extended to include Vancouver Island. Two magistrates and four selected representatives from Vancouver Island were added to the Legislative Council of the united British Columbia.


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Michael Carter 2008-07-28




Central Name Authority File

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Created by: Michael Carter