Yet another bland street name is coming to Vancouver

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      Vancouver's colonial legacy lives on.

      The city already has more than its share of streets named after resource barons, land thieves, racist 19th-century administrators, British imperialists, trees, and provinces.

      Now, Vancouver city council is poised once again to turn down an opportunity to name a road after a major historical figure who isn't white.

      In a report going to council next week, city staff recommends calling a new street Rivergrass Drive.

      It's in the River District, formerly known as East Fraserlands. It's a sprawling 52.6-hectare community that offered city council an opportunity to bring the streetscape in line with the city's diverse population.

      Not a single street in the River District is named after a nonwhite hero such as philanthropist Milton Wong, Muslim community builder Aziz Khaki, Musqueam leader Ed Sparrow, or Sikh rebel Gurdit Singh (who charted the ill-fated voyage of the Komagata Maru into Vancouver's harbour in 1914).

      Instead, the city has chosen boring and forgettable names such as Sawmill Crescent, River District Crossing, Pierview Crescent, and Riverwalk Avenue.

      Rivergrass Drive will be the latest sleep inducer if council approves the staff recommendation, which is virtually certain to occur.

      The report says that Rivergrass "reflects the site’s natural features and references the Musqueam First Nation, whose name may be translated as 'People of the River Grass' and whose people have inhabited the shores of the Fraser River for thousands of years".

      It's a coy way to get around a troubling lack of explicit recognition of the city's diversity in our street names.

      In a similar vein, there was a recommendation a while ago to name a new elementary school after the International Village Mall near the north end of False Creek. We can presume that no thought was given to naming it after a great Vancouver achiever like author Wayson Choy.

      No, our streets can only be named after the likes of James Dunsmuir, who exploited workers in his coal mines and seized land claimed by First Nations.

      Another winner of history who has a street named after him is Joseph Trutch. He's a former land commissioner who advocated shipping aboriginal people to reserves and stopping any negotiation of treaties with First Nations.

      I'm surprised there isn't a Vancouver street named after Duncan Campbell Scott, who spearheaded the residential-schools policy that led to cultural genocide.

      Meanwhile, Granville Street received its name from the 2nd Earl of Granville, former British foreign minister Granville George Leveson-Gower.

      Robson Street honours former journalist and premier John Robson, who was far more liberal-minded than Trutch and Dunsmuir, but was white nonetheless. Then there's the main boulevard named after Henry John Cambie, chief surveyor for the transcontinental Canadian Pacific Railway that killed so many Chinese workers.

      City councillors are perhaps too thick-skulled to recognize that this colonial legacy comes at a price.

      In a city that's increasingly of Asian origin, it's nonsensical not to reflect this in our public place names.

      It also keeps young people in the dark about the nonwhite pioneers who built this province and deprives them of daily reminders of their legacy.

      The way things are going in this town, I'm guessing we won't see a street named after anyone of South Asian or Philippine descent for at least another 50 years.

      But Trutch Street will live on forever. 

      Comments

      23 Comments

      cathy

      Sep 26, 2014 at 4:03pm

      Here is some street name trivia.

      Adanac St. in East Van is basically Union St. Back in Vancouver's early days Union St. was 'notorious' for gambling and prostitution.
      So the 'good' folks further out didn't want to be associated with it.
      The street was then called Adanac St.

      We all know that Adanac is Canada backwards. Don't we?

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      Dooobie

      Sep 26, 2014 at 4:08pm

      Trutch Street should be renamed Hobby Street, to encourage people to find positive hobbies.

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      ldbrown

      Sep 26, 2014 at 4:13pm

      I agree, Charlie. And furthermore, one would think that there were exactly no women that made positive contributions to the city. Perhaps you could add a few to your set of suggestions.

      must be a slow news day at the Straight

      Sep 26, 2014 at 4:14pm

      Surely you could report on more important issues??
      Give it a rest Charlie.

      REDDPILL

      Sep 26, 2014 at 4:14pm

      What a great read this was. I never once thought anything of 'street names' until now.

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      PeteFry

      Sep 26, 2014 at 4:30pm

      On a positive note, at the official naming of the new Strathcona-DTES-Chinatown library branch today we learned the name will be the Natsumust (sp?) Strathcona branch. "Natsumust" being a Coast Salish word for "we are one" - delightful and appropriate..

      Still a long way to go, but a step in the right direction.

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      MarkFornataro

      Sep 26, 2014 at 4:59pm

      Good points Charlie. And if you want to see some really boring street names go to Richmond where I spent my childhood: No.1 Road through No6 Road. Then in the Seafair area street names ending with mond or more. At least as kids we had a good laugh with Laidmore, the only saving grace.

      Arachides

      Sep 26, 2014 at 6:17pm

      When I saw the report/recommendation it was distressing to see the COV was determined to maintain the 'White makes Right' status quo as they ignore local history and the positive contributions Non-Whites have made. Let's not forget the COV shut out Aboriginal representation on the Engaged City Task Force with both the COV and VPB endorsing the report despite it's obvious shortcomings.
      As we've seen time and again with Vision Council and Vision Park Board unless there's the opportunity for photo-ops and free food they're nowhere to be seen while Non-Whites remain props for their re-election.
      Time to recognize those that have fought against City Hall discrimination. Streets named after Racists should be renamed, their time has passed.

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      The Honkey

      Sep 26, 2014 at 8:09pm

      Honkey, how I learned to hate the word.

      Whitey, that's all I ever heard.

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      Mark

      Sep 26, 2014 at 10:43pm

      Fair enough.

      Mao Zedong Ave. it is!

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