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01 - Introduction

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Sunrise on the morning of Dominion Day, 1974, broke over Victoria, B.C. at 5:17AM, with little fanfare. A grey cloud-cover - familiar to most British Columbians living near the coast - cloaked the sky over the capital city for much of the day, while the temperature hovered in the mid-50s.

If a temperature in the mid-50s seems a bit on the warm side, it may be helpful to note that Canada did not adopt the metric system — including degrees celsius — until 1975. And for those unfamiliar with it, Dominion Day was, of course, July 1st — The day that would become known as “Canada Day” eight years later, in 1982…

...and while 1974 may not seem that long ago to many, it was a staggeringly different time in ways that will seem foreign to many readers. Proctor Silex proudly ran half-page newspaper ads, touting their latest electric kettle that was “now made with lead-free solder”; One-bedroom condos in Vancouver, just off Commercial Drive, sold for $29,990 (With a $1,399 down-payment). Mel Brooks, John Wayne, and Paul Newman were all big names, with Blazing Saddles, McQ, and The Sting playing in cinemas, while The Three Musketeers - Starring Oliver Reed and Raquel Welch - was showing at the Tillicum Drive-In Only movie theatre. Ads for the latter attracted a tongue-in-cheek note: “WARNING: Considerable amount of sword fighting.”

In June of that year, looming federal and municipal elections dominated the newspapers, with candidates campaigning on promises to manage inflation and reduce the rising cost of living. Pierre Trudeau, in the process of making his third successful bid to lead Canada, held a “meet and greet” event on the causeway in front of the Empress Hotel in Victoria’s inner harbour, while Tommy Douglas - the former Prime Minister, now federal candidate - hosted a barbecue at Witty’s Lagoon.

The Provincial NDP Government ran employment ads in the daily newspapers, proudly advertising that the “positions were open to men and women” — An equality that was still significant enough to warrant open declaration in advertisements: The BC Human Rights Code had only been enshrined in law a year earlier.

It was against this background, half a century ago, that a now-familiar institution took shape. The citizens of British Columbia were - beginning on that Dominion Day morning in 1974 - the proud owners of a provincial ambulance service.

This is our story.

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