II. Victoria during the Spanish Flu

Victoria is the capital city of British Columbia, Canada’s Pacific province. Founded as a Hudson’s Bay Company trading post in 1843, Victoria became in 1849 the capital of the Colony of Vancouver Island, and the company bought the land the city stands on from resident Salish First Nations in 1850. Incorporated as a city in 1862, Victoria has been the capital of British Columbia (area 944,735 square kilometres/364,764 square miles) since 1868. The British colony became the sixth province of Canada in 1871.

British Columbia, Canada. Victoria, the capital city, at bottom centre. Thanks for the loan, Canada Maps: http://www.canada-maps.org/british-columbia-map.htm

Victoria is situated at the southeast end of Vancouver Island (area 31,285 sq km/12,079 sq mi). The city’s south and west coasts border the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and its east coast borders Haro Strait.

In the 2016 census of Canada, Victoria’s metropolitan area aggregated a population of 367,770 in thirteen municipalities.

Contemporary map of Greater Victoria showing the thirteen constituent municipalities. The District of Central Saanich was until 1950 part of the District of Saanich. Borrowed with thanks from https://www.vicnews.com/news/saanich-completes-puzzle-of-revised-regional-growth-plan/

In 1918, Greater Victoria comprised four municipalities: the City of Victoria, the Districts of Saanich and Oak Bay and the Township of Esquimalt.

Victoria area municipalities as shown on 1923 B. C. Electric Railway Company transit map of the region (detail). Courtesy Oak Bay Archives via acitygoestowar.ca

From 1906 to 1950 the District of Saanich extended north to the boundary of North Saanich.

The population of Greater Victoria at the time of the Spanish Flu was estimated to be about 56,000. More on how a population estimate was derived in “How Victoria Fared.”

Victoria’s resident population included factory, foundry and shipyard workers, loggers, commercial fishermen, whalers, farmers, wholesalers and retailers, service workers and the provincial civil service. Victoria’s was an insular society, deeply stratified. While superficially integrated through the system of domestic service, it was racially and socio-economically segregated by geography. The city’s most populous ethnicities included, in the 1911 census of Canada, English (43.8 percent of the total population), Scottish (16.8 percent), Chinese (10.9 percent) and Irish (7.1 percent). Just twenty-three persons were recorded as of “Indian/Sauvage” origin.

Victoria’s transient military populations included the Esquimalt naval establishment, the Work Point army garrison (British), Willows Camp training base of the Canadian Expeditionary Force …

Key transportation vectors included considerable civilian shipping in Victoria Harbour, where steamers provided passenger and freight services with mainland ports and offshore; the naval service in Esquimalt Harbour; three regional railway lines; the Victoria streetcar system.

In this section:

The state of health care in Victoria in 1918: an inventory of personnel, lines of responsibility/command, infrastructure;

The virus’s spread into Canada in a second wave, westward to Victoria, where the first death was recorded on October 6, 1918;

• The various jurisdictions’ responses to the threat; notably, the ban on public meetings in the city of Victoria; with special attention to the care provided in the rural municipality of Saanich by the Victorian Order of Nurses during the epidemic;

• the course of the three local epidemics ending in the winter of 1920.