VANCOUVER (CityNews) — Vancouver’s mayor says he’ll be asking for Trutch Street to be renamed, noting it is named after someone who “actively worked to marginalize Indigenous people and seize their lands.”
The Kitsilano street is named after Joseph Trutch, who was B.C.’s first Lieutenant Governor. He was born in England and came to Canada in 1859. When writing to family in the United Kingdom about the Indigenous people he encountered in Oregon Territory, he referred to them as “lazy” and “ugly.” Trutch also claimed Indigenous people had no right to their land.
Mayor Kennedy Stewart says he will bring a motion to council asking for a name change after consulting with a local First Nation.
“I have spoken with Musqueam leadership about renaming Trutch Street and am in full support,” he writes in a statement.
Jessie Loyer is a Cree-Metis writer and librarian, originally from Alberta. She lived in a house on Trutch Street from 2010 to 2012 while attending UBC, and supports the name change.
“I think as a majority Indigenous household that had all moved to Vancouver from the Prairies, I don’t think we all knew who Trutch was. And it didn’t take long for all of us living in Vancouver to quickly learn that history. People who were Indigenous told us pretty quickly about his legacy in B.C.” she says.
“What we had been calling the ‘Trutch House’ we then changed to the ‘Little House from the Prairies’ to sort of get around that.”
In recent years, some statues of colonial figures have already been removed from public places – including Justice Matthew Begbie outside the New Westminster court house and Sir John A. MacDonald at Victoria City Hall. Loyer believes the discovery of the remains of 215 Indigenous children at a former Kamloops residential school has moved more people to confront the reality of Canada’s genocide of Indigenous people.
“I think the recent calls to change the names of streets or removes statues in different cities is really prompted by this empathy in people that’s welling up when they heard this news,” she says.
“I think if you’re an Indigenous person. There’s lots of people like [Trutch]. There are statues of people who have done unspeakable things to your family in any city in Canada. There’s statues and there’s streets named after people and there’s monuments to people who are celebrated for largely committing genocide.”
There have been similar calls to rename Trutch Street Victoria. Mayor Lisa Helps says while it’s good people want to see the name changed, it’s important to keep working toward real, meaningful action toward reconciliation.
“There are some colonial figures who have been more damaging and more influential in the past than others. I think Trutch St. is an interesting one, it’s been discussed for a number of years here,” she says.
“There are students at the University of Victoria, young people in our community, who are settlers, and who are really pushing for this.”
‘It is an action that is powerful’
While Loyer agrees that renaming a street is a relatively small thing, she still thinks it matters.
“Renaming streets is such a small action, but it is an action that is powerful. Naming something does have a great deal of power in the sense that when we name things we claim them.”
“Renaming a street isn’t necessarily addressing the number of kids in foster care, and it’s not addressing opioid deaths and it’s not addressing fresh water in communities, it’s not addressing, so many of the other things that Indigenous people have to contend with. I wouldn’t want somebody to just get distracted by renaming a street and thinking we’ve done our work.”
Helps says in Victoria one idea is to rename Trutch Street as “Truth Street.” As for Vancouver, Loyer has a different idea.
“It would be fantastic to have the languages of Vancouver, the languages of the land it is on reflected in the street names. You have a wealth of Indigenous names to choose from.”