Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Geography & Environmental Studies


Faculty of Arts

First Advisor

Isaac Prilleltensky

Advisor Role

Thesis Supervisor


British Columbia is a province that experienced rapid demographic, urban and economic growth in the past few decades. It is a modern and technologically sophisticated society. Although the province possesses the knowledge and resources to combat most dangers that threaten its people and communities, these dangers continue to outstrip the precautions and safety measures in place. The reasons for this seem to lie less in the characteristics of dangers or hazards, but rather relate to socioeconomic processes and organisations that disadvantage particular people, groups and sectors of the population, or make them more vulnerable to dangers than others. This thesis is directed towards exploring this phenomenon. The main objectives of this thesis are to: (1) examine the vulnerability to natural disasters of British Columbia’s people and communities, and (2) demonstrate how socioeconomic order and processes can create or exacerbate different forms of vulnerability in some groups. These objectives are met mainly by applying existing vulnerability theories to British Columbia, including how we describe vulnerable individuals, groups and sectors, the forms of vulnerability that affect them, and the forces that contribute to them. British Columbia’s recent prosperity and growth marginalised some individuals, groups and communities, pushing them closer to the edge of the province’s social, economic and political systems. They widened social gaps and regional differentiation between Vancouver and the rest of the province, leaving some groups disadvantaged, powerless, unprotected, and/or exposed to dangers. Issues of vulnerability that pertain to peripheral resource communities include: (1) dependency on industries that are mobile, and controlled by unstable world market prices and availability of the remaining resources that they extract, (2) little to no influence on policies and organisations that affect their own interests and govern public resources, and (3) deterioration of physical landscape from resource extraction. In Vancouver, rising living costs sent people seeking accommodation elsewhere, resulting in some people living in more vulnerable locations or situations. These include: (1) homelessness and involvement in illegal activities such as prostitution and drug trafficking and use, (2) those who migrated further from work, placing them in vehicles for longer periods of time, and thus increasing exposure to road risks, (3) those who migrated to satellite and peripheral communities which in themselves are often more vulnerable, and (4) those who remained in Vancouver where higher living costs meant less resources available for other “non-essential” expenditures. Other issues contributing to vulnerability in some individuals, groups or sectors include: (1) dependencies, (2) tenancy, (3) poverty, and (4) tourists and other visitors.

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