BIG Region – British Columbia

Photo Credit: Jess Barnett (unsplash)

British Columbia, Canada’s westernmost province, borders three American states to the south, Washington, Idaho and Montana; Alberta across the Rocky Mountains to the east; the Yukon to the north; Alaska to northwest, and the Pacific Ocean to the west. 

Vancouver Island and Haida Gwaii (previously the Queen Charlotte Islands) protect much of the rugged coastline south of the Alaskan border. Meanwhile, there are several land border crossings between BC and Washington – 13 in total –  particularly in the west, where four major crossings facilitate heavy traffic flows between the Vancouver and Seattle corridor.  The Port of Vancouver is Canada’s largest and busiest seaport, and there is significant shipping traffic along the coast of British Columbia and through the surrounding international waters. Southwestern British Columbia is closely connected through business, transport, tourism, and culture with Washington state, with the region, including  the state of Oregon to the south of Washington, is colloquially known as the Pacific Northwest or Cascadia. 

For some time now, there has been an established network of scholars working on the BC / Washington border. Fresh research on questions of governance explored the mechanisms, policies, and regulatory regimes at various levels of government and outside government that seek to manage borders and border regions in BC.  How do regional entities interact with federal entities in BC, for example?  What issues warrant cross-border cooperation and what are the criteria for coordination?

On the cultural front, what is the degree of cross-border culture in BC? What are its characteristics? How has culture influenced management of the border and how has the border influence culture? Tourism, recreation, and sports create a shared culture across the BC border, but what issues create a clash of culture?  Several First Nations’ territories span the border – can we apply lessons from this to broader cross-border governance?

What are the major historical events that have defined, influenced or characterized the BC-Washington border? How did the border change after NAFTA and 9/11? Will it change after the passage of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement between the European Union and Canada? Have policies on one side of the border influenced policies on the other side of the border?

What are the key considerations for security along the BC border, and how do these relate to the movement of goods, services, and people?  Are they changing or long-standing?  What are the key security considerations along the marine border?  What are the greatest points of vulnerability in BC’s ports of entry? If we are moving to a peripheral approach to security, what impacts will this have on BC and how would this be reflected on other borders?

How does the border affect flows and how do flows affect the regulatory system for dealing with borders in BC/Wash? What are the policies, currently in place, to deal with the flows of goods, services, people and capital? What efforts are in place to improve those policies? What are the governance gaps in managing flows? What are the acupuncture points in the regulatory regime for affective policy? Can we apply lessons learned from the BC/Alberta Trade Investment, Labour and Mobility Agreement (TILMA) to the BC/Washington border? What impact has the rise of Asian powers had on BC flows?

Lastly, in the BC context, how do we define sustainability?  There are several water-related issues ripe for examination in BC, including: the Columbia River Treaty renegotiation, McKenzie River watershed management, First Nations’ water rights, the energy-water nexus and the impact of industry on watershed management (e.g. energy development in the McKenzie, versus hydro in the Columbia), impact of international treaties on excluded stakeholders, and lack of harmonized regulatory standards for water and wastewater quality.

Dr. Helga Kristin Hallgrimsdottir at the University of Victoria led the British Columbia region with Dr. Emmanuel Brunet-Jailly (UVic).