Port Metro Vancouver is located in western Canada's largest urban center in southwestern British Columbia between Burrard Inlet and the Fraser River and across the Strait of Georgia from Vancouver Island. Port Metro Vancouver is about 100 nautical miles north-northeast of the Port of Victoria, located on southern Vancouver Island, and about 71 nautical miles north-northwest of the Port of Bellingham in Washington State in the United States. In 2006, over 578 thousand people lived in the City of Vancouver, and more than two million people lived in the metropolitan area.
Port Metro Vancouver is a major seaport and a culturally diverse city. Over 40% of its residents speak a language other than English as their native tongue. Aside from the port, Port Metro Vancouver's economy is based on tourism, forestry, mining, and manufacturing. Oil refining and processing fish and forest and agricultural products are also important. Major manufacturers produce metals, boats, chemicals, trucks, and machinery to support forestry and mining activities in the area. More recently, the city has grown as a center for high-tech industries as well as productions for television and film.
Archaeological evidence suggests that indigenous Coast Salish peoples inhabited the area around Port Metro Vancouver for between 4500 to 9000 years before Europeans arrived there. Native villages were located within what is now the city of Vancouver at Stanley Park, Burrard Inlet, and False Creek.
In 1791, Spanish explorer Jose Maria Narvaez explored the coastline. In 1792, British explorer George Vancouver explored the inner harbor area at Burrard Inlet, giving British names to many natural features.
The first Europeans to have landed at the site of Port Metro Vancouver were the North West Company's trader Simon Fraser and his crew when they traveled up the Fraser River.
In 1858, the Fraser Gold Rush attracted more than 25 thousand men to travel up the Fraser River, almost beyond today's Vancouver, in search of riches. In 1862, the first European settlement was created on the Fraser River to the east of the indigenous village of Masqueam.
In 1863, a sawmill was established in what is now the City of North Vancouver which was soon followed by many other mills in the Port Metro Vancouver area. Captain Edward Stamp established Hastings Mill near the end of today's Gore Street, and the city grew up around the mill. When the Canadian Pacific Railway arrived in the 1880s, the mill became less important to the local economy, although it continued to be a mainstay through the 1920s.
After 1867, the settlement called Gastown started growing around a tavern at the edge of the Hastings Mill site in what would become Port Metro Vancouver. The colonial government surveyed the area and laid out a town site it called Granville in 1870.
The City of Vancouver was incorporated in 1886 when the transcontinental railroad came to town, being named after George Vancouver. That year, an out-of-control slash/burn fire destroyed the new city; however it was rebuilt quickly.
In 1881, about one thousand people lived in what would become Port Metro Vancouver. In 1898, the Klondike Gold Rush brought trade to merchants in Vancouver who sold equipment to prospectors. New department stores appeared that became the heart of Port Metro Vancouver's retail sector and endured as such for many years.
Early Port Metro Vancouver depended on natural resources for its economy. Logging appeared first, then the seaport developed to export forest products and, over time, many different products. By the 1930s, Port Metro Vancouver was the most important economic sector in the city.
Dominated largely by big businesses that had the capital necessary for developed, a strong and vocal labor movement grew up in Vancouver. Frank Rogers, a labor leader, was killed while picketing the docks in 1903. While relations between management and labor calmed through the 1920s, peace ended when the Great Depression began. Communist party organizers led many strikes. In 1935, the strike era peaked when unemployed men swamped the city to protest the conditions in relief camps. In the end, the strikers were arrested and held in work camps until the Depression ended.
Port Metro Vancouver was also influenced by the feminist, moral reform, and temperance movements. In 1918, activist Mary Ellen Smith was the first woman to be elected to a Canadian provincial legislature.
In 1928, about 150 thousand people lived in the lower mainland surrounding Vancouver, many of whom lived in the South Vancouver and Point Grey municipalities. That year, these communities decided to merge with Port Metro Vancouver, effectively increasing the city's population by over 50% in one day.
In the 1920s, the Asiatic Exclusion League stormed Japantown and Chinatown. Investigations of the event led to the discovery that white women and Chinese men were going to opium dens in the city. This resulted in federal laws that banned opium for non-medical purposes.
By 1941, over 400 thousand people lived in the Port Metro Vancouver metropolitan area. The impact of the Great Depression ended only with the coming of World War II. Local shipyards were soon busy, and Boeing Aircraft hired five thousand people to work on parts. After the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, the city's Japanese-Canadians were removed to government camps, and their property was taken with little compensation. Women came to the city to work in the Fraser River canneries. One thousand women worked at the Burrard Dry Dock where "Victory ships" were built.
In the 1950s, the city continued to grow. The Vancouver airport began international flights, local highways were constructed, and new roads and bridges brought an end to the local streetcars. Shopping centers and industrial parks arose. Container ships arrived in Port Metro Vancouver, and an oil pipeline from Edmonton began operating.
Port Metro Vancouver suburbs continued to grow through the 1960s when the metropolitan population reached over 800 thousand. In 1967, the Greater Vancouver Regional District was born, bringing a new style of government to the area. By 1971, the area population reached over one million people.
In the 1970s, a new coal port was opened at Delta's Roberts Bank, boosting Port Metro Vancouver's trade relations with Pacific Rim ports. City infrastructure improvements were made, and a new courthouse appeared downtown in 1979.
By the early 1980s, only a third of the metropolitan population lived in Vancouver city, and the suburbs continued to grow. In 1986, the City of Vancouver commemorated its 100th anniversary with the opening of Expo 86, bringing over 21 million visitors to the city. After Expo 86, the property was sold to Hong Kong's Li Ka-shing in one of Canada's biggest-ever real estate deals that started the biggest urban project in North America.
The 1990s brought a return of population to the central city. In 1996, the residential population in downtown increased for the first time in several decades.