A book recommendation for anyone considering a run for Vancouver city council, park board, or school board

Canada's Place Names and How to Change Them will be released shortly before voting day

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      This morning, Lohit Jagwani of ZG Stories emailed me about an intriguing book that will be published this fall.

      Canada's Place Names and How to Change Them includes several examples of communities that have changed their names in this country.

      Author Lauren Beck, a professor of visual and material culture at Mount Allison University, also delves into various Indigenous place names and how they've been misunderstood and appropriated throughout history.

      "Along the way, Beck describes how language and other symbols such as maps, flags and coats of arms reveal whose identities inform Canada’s national self-understanding and whose are systematically erased," the publisher, Concordia University Press, states in its promotional blurb. "Uncovering the contingent processes behind seemingly inevitable descriptors, Beck also highlights instructive examples of communities who changed their names toward a more just future."

      I've written a fair amount over the years about how many place names in Vancouver reflect the city's colonial history. One of the most hideous is Trutch Street. It commemorates a colonial chief land commissioner who denied Indigenous people title to their lands and prohibited them from purchasing property from settlers.

      Joseph Trutch also tried to persuade the federal government to confine Indigenous people to much smaller reserves.

      In 2012, this sticker was posted on signs for Trutch Street on Vancouver's West Side.
      Charlie Smith

      Last year, city council finally addressed this issue by voting unanimously to ask staff to come back with "the most expeditious way to rename Trutch Street with an alternative name chosen by the Musqueam Indian Band".

      This occurred nearly a decade after activists had plastered stickers on the street sign declaring that Joseph Trutch was a racist bigot.

      In recent years, Indigenous names have been attached to a library branch, college, school, and two city squares in Vancouver. But there's still a long way to go in this regard, as a colonial audit conducted by the park board demonstrated.

      As well, there's still a stunning lack of recognition of diverse communities in building the city in the names of local schools, parks, and streets.

      This issue is likely to remain in the public eye for several years to come, which makes Canada's Place Names and How to Change Them a timely book. It's scheduled to be released on October 1. That's just two weeks before the next civic election in Vancouver.

      Let's hope that anyone who's elected takes the time to read it so they'll be better equipped to address this issue when it invariably comes up in the future at city council, the park board, and the school board.

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