Joseph Trutch was a racist bigot—but don't expect Vancouver city council to do anything about it

    1 of 1 2 of 1

      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




      Aug 16, 2012 at 9:33am

      pick any Euro/american white leader and you pretty much have a rasist zealot misogamist of some degree in politics and and commerce shit floats to the top with few exceptions and the further back you go the worse it gets

      Charlie Smith

      Aug 16, 2012 at 9:47am


      I disagree. Trutch was a special case. He changed the policy, which led to many deaths of aboriginal people. Under Douglas, treaties were being negotiated. As a result of Trutch's influence, Natives ended up living in poverty on reserves, stripped of any legal rights, for a very long time.

      It's easy to say everyone was a racist in those days. But it ignores the active role that Trutch took in a horrible legacy. There's a reason why most of B.C. is still unceded aboriginal territory. It's because Trutch played the leading role in the theft of the land.

      Charlie Smith

      If only...

      Aug 16, 2012 at 10:20am

      Vision Vancouver would rename the street if a developer paid them to do it.


      Aug 16, 2012 at 10:25am

      You can't change history. The fact the city named the street after him in the first place speaks volumes. Rather than change it, people should be educated on what he represented. That way each time they see the street name, they acknowledge someone who gave service to the founding of modern BC at the expense of the first nations.

      I personally like what living in what Vancouver, BC is today. And whether you like or not Trutch played a role in that.


      Aug 16, 2012 at 10:26am

      Sorry Charlie, but Trutch was more typical than special. And it will do aboriginal people more harm than good if we attempt to erase and whitewash our past.

      Illustration: I've lived in the Vancouver area for about 40 years, and I didn't know about the Trutch history until the past few days when the sticker campaign started. So, what if the street had been renamed 10 years ago? How would I ever have learned that he was such an odious character?

      (By the way, maybe we should take a serious look at Dunsmuir Street too? James Dunsmuir's coal mines and other industrial projects killed hundreds and hundreds of "slaves" (white and Chinese). Trutch and Dunsmuir probably saw eye-to-eye on "non-humans" ... creatures to be exploited and worked.)

      Charlie Smith

      Aug 16, 2012 at 11:15am


      I agree with you on Dunsmuir Street. That's the other one I would rename. The rest could be left alone.


      Please, Please, Please

      Aug 16, 2012 at 12:20pm

      Captain George Vancouver was an unabashed racist and imperialist.

      Do we rename the city and island as well ?

      If we revert to traditional First Nations names, do we then vet those names to ensure that nothing unacceptable to the present is allowed through ?

      After all, you dont have to look to hard to find a lot of First Nations that we enslaved, massacred, and exploited at the hands of other First Nations.

      How do you think people who were enslaved by the Huron feel about Lake Huron ? Should we rename that too ?


      Aug 16, 2012 at 12:38pm

      And who exactly was this "West" family? There are so many streets named after them, they had to start giving them numbers. West 4th, West 12th, West 41st ...

      Sorry, couldn't resist ... :)

      2nd Nation

      Aug 16, 2012 at 12:52pm

      Well, the GS does have to fill a newspaper every week. Thus we get "news" like this; some guy, long dead, was not an ideal citizen at least by 21st century standards. Stop the presses!


      Aug 16, 2012 at 1:30pm

      The West family were the biggest bunch of bigoted a-holes of them all.