Dr. John Sebastian Helmcken
Along the exterior of the Legislative Library are 14 statues of individuals who held prominence in the earlier history of the territory now known as British Columbia. One of those statues depicts Dr. John Sebastian Helmcken.
John Sebastian Helmcken was born on June 5, 1825, in London, England. At age 14, Helmcken began formal training in pharmacy and upon receiving his license, he was appointed as a surgeon on a Hudson’s Bay Company ship headed for York Factory, a fur trading post along the southwest shore of the Hudson Bay. After returning to Britain, Helmcken was hired to provide medical services on a passenger ship traveling to the Pacific. Helmcken was eventually brought to the Colony of Vancouver Island in 1849 to serve as a Clerk and Colonial Surgeon for the Hudson Bay Company, where he would often have to deal with scarce or inadequate medical resources. During this time, Helmcken was also working as a private secretary to Governor Richard Blanshard.
In 1856, the first House of Assembly on Vancouver Island was elected with Helmcken serving as the representative for Esquimalt and the first Speaker of the Assembly. As a politician, Helmcken was involved in two important events in British Columbia’s early history: the unification of the colonies of Vancouver Island and British Columbia in 1866 and British Columbia’s entry into Canadian Confederation in 1871. Helmcken was initially opposed to Confederation, but after being sent to Ottawa to negotiate more acceptable terms for British Columbia, he ultimately supported unification with the Dominion of Canada. Dr. John Helmcken died on September 1, 1920, in Victoria, and is buried in Ross Bay Cemetery, Victoria.