A British Columbia Land Surveyor is an individual commissioned as a land surveyor by the Association of British Columbia Land Surveyors, and is authorized to carry out legal surveys within British Columbia. Many British Columbia Provincial statutes specifically designate B.C. Land Surveyors as the only persons entitled to perform legal surveys of land pursuant to the particular Act. B.C. Land Surveyors enter the profession after undergoing a rigorous pre-professional education and subsequent training as an articled pupil.  Many BC Land Surveyors have obtained university degrees in geomatics and survey sciences prior to pursuing their careers as a land surveyor, while many others have acquired technical diplomas in survey technologies during the course of their education.  As a result, the British Columbia Land Surveyor is well grounded in the science of surveying and the application of this knowledge in service to their clients.

Association of British Columbia Land Surveyors

The Association of British Columbia Land Surveyors is the association governing the profession of land surveying within the Province.  Created in 1905, the Association is governed by the Land Surveyors Act, a Provincial statute which sets out the framework within which the association and its members operate.

The Association is a self-regulating body which develops bylaws and guidelines for the conduct of its members, establishes and administers the requirements for entry into the profession, and liaises with government bodies and other associations in a continuous effort to improve the quality of service to the public.  Membership in the Association is restricted to holders of a BCLS commission, and students in the pursuit of such accreditation.  Membership levels are outlined as follows:

  • Practising – members authorized to conduct surveys within the Province of British Columbia
  • Nonpractising – members currently not authorized to conduct surveys
  • Retired – members who have retired from active practice
  • Life Members – members who have been recognized by their peers for their contribution and service to the profession.  These members have all the privileges of a practising land surveyor but are no longer required to pay dues.
  • Land Surveyor Associates – members who are land surveyors in another jurisdiction in Canada and who have applied to become a practising BC land surveyor through labour mobility.
  • Land Surveyors in Training – members who have completed their formal university education or equivalent and who are completing the professional requirements to be a practising land surveyor
  • Survey Student – a person who is working towards completing their formal university education or equivalent and who wishes to be enrolled for educational purposes


Historical Information

Exploration of British Columbia’s coast began in 1741, when Danish navigator Vitus Bering approached the BC coast. He was followed by Spanish explorer Juan Perez in 1774.

Surveying in what is now British Columbia was initiated when Captain James Cook, in His Majesty’s barque “Endeavor”, charted Nootka Sound in 1778. In 1792, a Spanish expedition and a British expedition under Captain George Vancouver met in Georgia Strait, and cooperated in charting much of Georgia Strait and Puget Sound before sailing to Nootka Inlet to discuss ownership of their new found and claimed lands.

Further early hydrographic surveying to map our coastline was done by Captains George Vancouver, Provost, Richards and Pender. Two famous explorers and geographers who contributed to early mapping in the interior of British Columbia were Alexander MacKenzie (1793) and David Thompson (1800). The latter was a pupil of the first official surveyor of the Hudson’s Bay Company.

In 1851, Mr. J.D. Pemberton was appointed Colonial Surveyor for the Colony of Vancouver Island. His title changed to Surveyor General for the Colony of Vancouver Island in 1859.



Colonel R.C. Moody was appointed Acting Surveyor General of the B.C. mainland Colony. In 1864, Mr. B.W. Pearse became Surveyor General of the Vancouver Island colony and Mr. J.W. Trutch became Surveyor General of the mainland colony. When the two colonies united in 1866, J.W. Trutch became Surveyor General of the Colony of British Columbia.

In 1871, when the colony of B.C. joined confederation and became a Province of Canada, B.W. Pearse became the first Surveyor General of the Province of British Columbia.

In 1858, a company of Royal Engineers was sent from England at the request of Sir James Douglas (first governor of British Columbia), to conduct engineering works in connection with the Fraser River gold rush. Twelve or so of these men made surveys on the mainland; when the company was recalled to England in 1863, some of them remained behind and five or six were called to practise as land surveyors.



Prior to 1891, the Chief Commissioner of Lands and Works, or Surveyor General, authorized surveyors to practise by appointment. Surveyor thus appointed were designated Land Surveyors (“L.S.”). In 1891, the British Columbia legislature passed the first Land Surveyors Act whereby a Board of Examiners was appointed by the Lieutenant Governor in Council. This Board, under the direction of the Surveyor General, was responsible for examining new surveyors. Surveyors admitted under this Act were designated Provincial Land Surveyors and were entitled to use the initials “P.L.S.” In 1905, the present Corporation of Land Surveyors of the Province of British Columbia was incorporated by an Act of the B.C. legislature wherein the Board of Management of the Corporation was given authority to examine candidates for admission as articled pupils and as commissioned land surveyors. Surveyors admitted after 1905 were, and still are, identified by the initials “B.C.L.S.”

Today, a British Columbia Land Surveyor must have received his or her “commission” from the Association and be a member in good standing in order to practice the profession of land surveying. The crude but effective technology of the past, such as the staff compass, open plate transits and Gunters chains, have now been replaced by GPS (satellite positioning) receivers, electronic total station instruments, electronic data recorders, and powerful computers for calculating and plotting the results of field measurements. Nevertheless, the traditions, honour and devotion of the past members is still found in today’s members.