A Vancouver health facility named after a B.C. politician who was a key figure in removing the rights and freedoms, as well as the businesses and possessions, of a specific ethnic group of Canadian citizens will now undergo a name change.
Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) announced today (September 14) that it will begin a process, involving local community partners and stakeholders, to choose a new name for George Pearson Centre.
The centre is a care home for residents with complex medical and physical condition. It’s located at 700 West 57th Avenue in South Vancouver.
VCH initiated the renaming process in response to an advisory from a community group about the racist political activities of the centre’s namesake.
The British-born George S. Pearson was a B.C. Liberal MLA for Nanaimo from 1928 to 1952, and was the B.C. Labour Minister and Fisheries Commissioner.
Pearson was a strong advocate for people of Japanese descent to be removed from British Columbia during the Second World War. He went to Ottawa in January 1942 to demand that all Japanese Canadians be forcibly relocated out of the province, even though RCMP, army, and navy officials asserted that Japanese Canadians posed no security threat.
The internment of over 22,000 Japanese Canadians began in 1942 and restrictions remained in place in B.C. until 1949, even though Japan had surrendered in 1945 and the Japanese American internment had ended in 1946.
In 1988, the Canadian government officially apologized for the internment and delivered compensation to surviving internees. The B.C. government and the City of Vancouver formally apologized in 2012 and 2013, respectively, for their involvement in the internment.
“The beliefs and actions of George S. Pearson do not align with VCH’s core values: We care for everyone, we are always learning, and we strive for better results,” VCH stated in a news release. “VCH recognizes that names hold power and signal organizational and community values—the health authority is committed to making its sites more culturally safe and humbly acknowledges the work that still needs to be done.”