For thousands of years, the Saanich Peninsula, along with the Gulf and San Juan Islands, has been home to W̱SÁNEĆ people who built permanent winter homes in the area in the shape of cedar longhouses.
The site where the Town of Sidney sits is called “SET,TINES” by the W̱SÁNEĆ, which means “chest sticking out,” in reference to the way the land juts out into the water. Bazan Bay, which lies near the southern border of Sidney and North Saanich long served as a gathering site for camas and urchins, and also a site for greeting visitors from neighbouring tribes. From this site, First Nations people launched their canoes to travel to the surrounding islands. Tsehum Habour at the northern end of Sidney was a historic village called W̱SI,I,KEM.
The W̱SÁNEĆ continue to have a vibrant presence on the Peninsula today, proudly speaking and preserving SENĆOŦEN, a dialect of Coast Salish languages.
Learn about W̱SÁNEĆ history and ongoing presence on the Saanich Peninsula through a summary provided by the W̱SÁNEĆ Leadership Council in the Official Community Plan (page 15).
Sidney’s landscape changed significantly with colonial settlement. Following the British Government’s establishment of the colony of Vancouver Island in 1849, the Hudson’s Bay Company obtained two large tracts of land in 1852, which became known as North and South Saanich Districts.
Within a few months after the advent of the Fraser River gold rush excitement in April 1858, the majority of the North Saanich District was spoken for by gold miners, settlers, and speculators. Among them were William and Charles Reay, Donald Fraser, William Booth, and Octavius Ommaney, who purchased land which is now part of the Town of Sidney.
In 1891, fifty acres of land owned by the Brethour family was subdivided into lots and registered as the Township of Sidney. By the close of 1892, there was a general store, a post office, a boat building shop, and a hotel.
The name “Sidney” comes from nearby Sidney Island, which can be seen from the shores of the community. Sidney Island was named after Lieutenant Frederick William Sidney (later Captain) who was a member of the Hydrographic Service of the Royal Navy.
Transportation played a major role in the success of the Peninsula, with rail and sea links to Victoria and the Mainland, and more recently with Victoria International Airport established on the border of Sidney.
Sidney was incorporated as a village on September 30th, 1952 and has enjoyed steady growth. It’s current population is 12,300* residents (*2021 Census).