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New West passes motion to remove statue of controversial judge in spirit of reconciliation

Last Updated May 6, 2019 at 10:28 pm PDT

New Westminster city council passed a motion to remove the statue of Judge Begbie on May 6, 2019. (Source: Isabelle Raghem/CityNews Vancouver)
Summary

The City passed a motion to remove the statue of Judge Matthew Begbie at a council meeting Monday evening

The city will work with the museum and archives, as well as with the Tsilhqot’in people, to find a new home for it

NEW WESTMINSTER (NEWS 1130) – The figure of a B.C. judge involved in the hanging of six First Nations chiefs will soon be removed from its home in New Westminster.

Council passed a motion to remove the statue of Judge Matthew Begbie from in front of its provincial courthouse at a council meeting Monday evening. The motion passed four to two.

The move is in the name of reconciliation, and wouldn’t be the first time a statue of the controversial figure has come down.

In their motion, New Westminster Councillors Nadine Nakagawa and Chuck Puchmayr called the statue a symbol of the colonial era and its grave injustices.

Their motion added “the execution of the six Tsilhqot’in Chiefs changed the relationship and was used as a threat to all Indigenous peoples attempting to defend their land.”

It also said the city will work with the museum and archives, as well as with the Tsilhqot’in people, to find a new home for it.

The province has already apologized and exonerated the six Tsilhqot’in Chiefs, sentenced to death in 1864 and 1865, and the prime minister apologized to the First Nation for the hangings in November.

The Law Society of B.C. removed a statue of Begbie from its lobby about two years ago.

The bronze statue that stands in front of the provincial courthouse sits in the area named Begbie Square, and was sculpted by Ellek Imreddy. It was commissioned by lawyers and judges associated with the New Westminster Bar Association, the city says on its website, and has been described as a “landmark feature of the plaza.”

It’s unclear if the plaza will be renamed.

Begbie presided over the case of the six chiefs when their First Nation was at war with the Colony of British Columbia in the early 1860s.

The idea of removing the statue is getting mixed reaction from those living in the area.

“The statue should be left where they area,” one man told NEWS 1130. “It’s a part of history.”

“I think it’s a positive step, but I think reconciliation needs to go further than just that,” Brett Price, who was born and raised in New Westminster, said. “Would hate for it to be a lipstick on the pig kind of scenario. True reconciliation needs to go much deeper between nations.”