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District municipality
Corporation of the Township of Esquimalt[1]
View of Esquimalt from the Highrock Cairn
View of Esquimalt from the Highrock Cairn
Location of Esquimalt in British Columbia
Location of Esquimalt in British Columbia
Country  Canada
Province  British Columbia
Region South Island/Greater Victoria
Regional district Capital Regional District
Incorporated 1912
 • Total 7.08 km2 (2.73 sq mi)
Elevation 10 m (30 ft)
Population (2011)
 • Total 16,209
 • Density 2,290.1/km2 (5,931/sq mi)
Time zone PST (UTC−8)
 • Summer (DST) PDT (UTC−7)
Highways 1A
Waterways Strait of Juan de Fuca
Website District of Esquimalt

The township of Esquimalt is a municipality at the southern tip of Saanich. It is one of the 13 municipalities of Greater Victoria and part of the Capital Regional District.

Esquimalt had a population of 16,209 in 2011. It covers 7.08 square kilometres. It is home to the Pacific fleet of the Royal Canadian Navy.


  • History 1
  • Neighbourhoods of Esquimalt 2
  • Education 3
  • Communications 4
  • Canadian Forces Base Esquimalt 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7


The region now known as Esquimalt was settled by First Nations people approximately 400 years before the arrival of Europeans. The treaties of the Hudson's Bay Company (HBC), signed in 1843, refer to these people as the Kosampsom group, though they are now known as the Esquimalt Nation. The word Esquimalt is a transliteration of "Ess-whoy-malth," a phrase usually translated as "place of the shoaling waters." The Songhees people (then called Songish), who now have a reserve in Esquimalt, were originally located on the western shore of what is now Victoria Harbour, but were relocated in 1911. Both nations spoke a North Straits Salish dialect called Lekwungen (which is also an alternate name for the Songhees).

The first Europeans to reach Esquimalt were the Spanish expedition of Nootka Crisis, control of the region went to the British and the British owned Hudson's Bay Company.

At Esquimalt, B.C., the sternwheel steamboat Lady Alexandra photographed sometime after 1874

In 1843, near the height of the Fort Camosun, but later renamed it Fort Victoria in honour of the British Queen.

However, ships continued to use Esquimalt Harbour to load and offload passengers and supplies. In 1852, sailors from a British naval ship, HMS Thetis, built a trail through the forest linking the harbour with Victoria Harbour and the fort. This trail, since paved over, is now one of Esquimalt's main streets, Old Esquimalt Road.

Meanwhile, the Hudson's Bay Company decided to try its hand at farming. Douglas leased all of Vancouver Island for seven shillings a year from Great Britain, and had a division of the HBC, the Puget Sound Agricultural Company, come in to develop the land. The Viewfield farm was the first in 1850, with the Constance Cove farm and Craigflower farms added later. The Craigflower farmhouse still exists as a heritage site, as does the Craigflower schoolhouse built to serve the settlers' children. Thomas Mackenzie, the bailiff in charge of the farm, named it for the ancestral home of one of his superiors. By the mid-1860s, the farms were considered failures and abandoned, and the property sold off in small parcels.

In 1855, the British Royal Navy constructed three hospital buildings on the harbour to treat casualties of the Crimean War. A small settlement grew up on the water's edge near the naval installation. But in 1858, the discovery of gold on the Fraser River triggered a massive influx of people, who came to Fort Victoria to buy permits and supplies before setting out for the mainland. Many of these ships landed in Esquimalt Harbour. Some of these people stayed in the area, including a few who opened up pubs, as well as some less-than-successful gold miners. With the growing population came the area's first building boom.

Even after the Oregon Treaty of 1846, the boundary between the British Gulf Islands and the U.S. islands in the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Puget Sound was not fully defined. An incident involving an American settler shooting an HBC farm pig on San Juan Island led to the Pig War with the USA in 1859.

In 1865, the British Royal Navy relocated the headquarters of its Pacific fleet from Valparaíso, Chile, to the Esquimalt Harbour. In 1887, a military base was located at Work Point. In 1905, the Royal Navy abandoned the area, but the Pacific base of the new Royal Canadian Navy replaced it in 1910. Gradually, naval life and shipbuilding came to dominate the region's sense of identity. In 1887, the Esquimalt and Nanaimo Railway was built through the centre of town.

On September 1, 1912, Esquimalt was incorporated as a District Municipality. After World War I, it became one of Canada's major shipbuilding capitals.

In June 2010, the Royal Canadian Navy celebrated its 100th anniversary with a Fleet Review in the waters off Greater Victoria, by Canada's Governor General Michaëlle Jean. The review was attended by warships from Canada, France, New Zealand, Australia, Japan, the United States, and US and Canadian Coast Guard vessels.

Canada 2006 Census Population % of Total Population
Visible minority group
Chinese 325 1.9%
South Asian 160 1%
Black 120 0.7%
Filipino 165 1%
Latin American 155 0.9%
Southeast Asian 65 0.4%
Arab 0 0%
West Asian 0 0%
Korean 15 0.1%
Japanese 35 0.2%
Other visible minority 10 0.1%
Mixed visible minority 20 0.1%
Total visible minority population 1,070 6.4%
Aboriginal group
First Nations 930 5.6%
Métis 0 0%
Inuit 0 0%
Total Aboriginal population 930 5.6%
White 14,705 88%
Total population 16,705 100%

Neighbourhoods of Esquimalt

The Olympic Mountains, from Esquimalt, 1900.

(See: Neighbourhood Map of Esquimalt)

  • Craigflower
  • Colville Road
  • Gorge Vale Golf
  • Esquimalt Village
  • Parklands
  • Panhandle Alley
  • Rock Heights
  • Saxe Point
  • West Bay
  • Work Point (DND)

Although the neighbourhood of Victoria (Vic) West is located on the Esquimalt Peninsula, it is part of the city of Victoria.[4]


Residents are zoned to schools in the Greater Victoria School District.


In the past, Esquimalt has been served by various incarnations of newspapers. Esquimalt ceased having its own newspaper in 2007 when the Esquimalt News by the Black Press folded and merged with the neighbouring Victoria News.[5]

Esquimalt, however, regained its own local community news source in October 2009 with the creation of the online journal Esquimalt Review.[5]

Canadian Forces Base Esquimalt

Canadian warships docked at CFB Esquimalt.

Canadian Forces Base Esquimalt (CFB Esquimalt) is home to Maritime Forces Pacific (MARPAC) of the Royal Canadian Navy. The base facility dates back to the fur trade era, before the founding of the Colony of Vancouver Island in 1849. The docks were first opened for servicing the Royal Navy in 1842 and were expanded in the wake of the disastrous Siege of Petropavlovsk during the Crimean War as the Esquimalt Royal Navy Dockyard.


  1. ^ "British Columbia Regional Districts, Municipalities, Corporate Name, Date of Incorporation and Postal Address" ( 
  2. ^ "Community Profiles from the 2006 Census, Statistics Canada - Census Subdivision". 2010-12-06. Retrieved 2013-04-13. 
  3. ^ "Aboriginal Peoples - Data table". 2010-10-06. Retrieved 2013-04-13. 
  4. ^ Township Map
  5. ^ a b Esquimal Review: About
  • Community Profile: Esquimalt District Municipality, British Columbia; Statistics Canada

External links

  • Corporation of the Township of Esquimalt
  • Esquimalt Chamber of Commerce
  • Songhees Nation
  • Photo of Esquimalt Harbour, 1894, U.Wash Digital Collections
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