VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — If Vancouver council approves a plan to rename Kitsilano’s Trutch Street, the new name will be chosen by the Musqueam First Nation and not by the city.
A motion brought by Mayor Kennedy Stewart Tuesday proposes renaming the street as an act of reconciliation, following a request from Musqueam Chief and Council.
“Joseph Trutch was a racist and the chief architect of racist policies which inflicted immense and long-standing harm to First Nations People,” the motion reads.
Joseph Trutch, was B.C.’s first Lieutenant Governor. He was born in England and came to Canada in 1859. When writing to family in the United Kingdom about the Indigenous people he encountered in Oregon Territory, he referred to them as “lazy” and “ugly.”
Trutch also claimed Indigenous people had no right to their land, and was instrumental in decreasing the size of reserves by 90 per cent.
Stewart said he learned more about who Trutch was and what he was responsible for after being approached by Musqueam leadership.
“It is just stomach-turning the account of Trutch’s, past history, his attitudes and actions toward Indigenous people. I was appalled,” he says.
The decision to give the First Nation and not the municipal government the authority to choose a new name is also something Stewart says is being done in the “spirit of reconciliation.”
Stewart told council Tuesday that this street is not the only civic asset celebrating a colonial figure, but says this move will establish a process that can be followed when renaming other streets or monuments.
“We’re hoping for change. And so that’s why I restricted just to this one street to learn, for us all to learn how this might happen,” he said.
“Council confirms it is open to considering similar requests from the Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh Nations,” the motion reads.
In recent years, some statues of colonial figures have already been removed from public places – including Justice Matthew Begbie outside the New Westminster courthouse and Sir John A. MacDonald at Victoria City Hall. The recent discovery of the remains of hundreds of people in unmarked graves on the grounds of former residential schools in British Columbia and Saskatchewan have prompted reconsideration of naming streets, and institutions after figures who were instrumental in perpetuating the genocide of Indigenous people in Canada in cities across the country.
“This that isn’t about cancelling history, it’s about choosing who we celebrate,” Stewart said.
“He will always be remembered in history, but I don’t think we need to celebrate him by naming a street after him.”
Council will hear from speakers and vote on the motion Wednesday.