Joseph Trutch was a racist bigot—but don't expect Vancouver city council to do anything about it
How do you think Jewish people would feel if Vancouver city council decided to name a road after notorious neo-Nazi Ernst Zundel?
How would Sikhs respond if there was a boulevard named in honour of General Reginald Dyer, the so-called Butcher of Amritsar, who ordered troops to fire on unarmed civilians commemorating Vaisakhi in 1919?
Yet somehow, it's okay to insult aboriginal people in Vancouver with a street named after Joseph Trutch. He was B.C.'s land commissioner in the 1860s who reversed a previous policy to negotiate treaties with aboriginal people in accordance with the 1763 Royal Proclamation.
Trutch, a smooth-talking leading capitalist of his era, strongly advocated rounding up aboriginal people and putting them on reserves. But he had a problem with the federal government's approach. Even though the Native people were in the majority in B.C. at the time, he felt that these piddling reserves were too large.
He was B.C.'s first lieutenant-governor and had streets named after him in Victoria and Vancouver.
This week, an enterprising activist slapped stickers on the Kitsilano street signs declaring that Trutch was a racist bigot.
That prompted Geoff Meggs to tell the Vancouver Sun that there won't be any move to rename the street.
The names of streets, parks, and schools can play a positive role in making people feel connected to the place where they live. These place names also inspire youth and educate us about our history.
By retaining Trutch's name on a street in Vancouver, city council is sending a dreadful message to every aboriginal person in the city, including the kids.
Vision Vancouver piled up massive majorities in the last two elections, but it's not willing to spend an ounce of its political capital to address this situation. In light of this, it's going to be hard to take Vision politicians seriously when they offer pious pronouncements in the future about trying to foster a more equal society.
Follow Charlie Smith on Twitter at twitter.com/csmithstraight.