It’s time to exorcise our street demons

For most of us, walking the streets of The Capital is far from a politically significant experience.

It’s time to exorcise our street demons

For most of us, walking the streets of The Capital is far from a politically significant experience.  However, woven into our city’s fabric and reflected on its streets is a history that is anything but neutral. We walk down Begbie Street without thinking of Matthew Begbie’s penchant for sentencing indigenous people to hang, or his role in the smallpox epidemic that decimated peoples across the province. We forget the namesake of Trutch Street’s unmasked hatred for indigenous peoples and his crusade to rob them of the few rights left to them by his predecessors. We wander down Sutlej Street without recalling the role of the HMS Sutlej in the 1864 massacre of an entire village in Clayoquot Sound. We happily reduce the act of honouring bigots and thieves to a matter of course.

“The things we name our places after reflect a lot about our values,” says Eric Nordal of Social Coast. The organization is launching a campaign this week to highlight the historical violence kept alive in these names,  and to lobby municipal governments to change some of those names.

Taking a lead role in the campaign is Kevin Paul, a member of the WSÃ, NEC nation who has dedicated much of his life to studying the language and history attached to this region. For Paul, new street signs are not the end of this story.

“I think there’s a need to start digging into the original history of this place, and these things give that opportunity.”

For Paul, learning our history is one of the first steps toward healing the divide between indigenous and settler communities. “Entire lives have begun and ended in other people’s territories without ever knowing the history of the place. History didn’t start when Europeans landed here, it started a long time before that — it’s still going on for me.”

We remember in painful detail the colonist’s side of history. We remember the names of crew members on the HMS Sutlej, its tours of the Pacific, the details of its construction; we forget the hundreds of innocent people who died at the hands of its crew.

Every day we honour and celebrate our demons by naming streets, mountains, parks, and institutions for the ghosts of our bitter past. M

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Vancouver Island Symphony conductor Pierre Simard is releasing his new synthwave album ‘Plandemic’ on March 5. (Photo courtesy Olivia Simard)
Vancouver Island Symphony conductor releasing side-project EP of electronic music

Pierre Simard, recording as Plan Omega, presents ‘Plandemic’

Nanaimo children’s author and illustrator Lindsay Ford’s latest book is ‘Science Girl.’ (Photo courtesy Lindsay Ford)
Vancouver Island children’s writer encourages girls to pursue the sciences in new book

Lindsay Ford is holding a virtual launch for latest book, ‘Science Girl’

Nanaimo-raised singer Allison Crowe with director Zack Snyder on the set of ‘Man of Steel’ in 2011. Crowe performs a cover of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah in the upcoming director’s cut of ‘Justice League.’ (Photo courtesy Clay Enos)
B.C. musician records song for upcoming ‘Justice League’ film

Allison Crowe’s close connection to director led to rendition of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah

The Gordon Head Recreation Centre stands in as the Quimper Regional Hospital on Feb. 23 for filming Maid, a 10-part Netflix series. (Greg Sutton/District of Saanich)
Netflix transforms Saanich recreation centre into hospital for filming

Facility was closed to public Feb. 23 for filming of Maid

This image released by SYFY shows Meredith Garretson, left, and Alan Tudyk in the new series "Resident Alien." (James Dittinger/SYFY via AP)
B.C.-shot ‘Resident Alien’ invader gets lift-off with viewers

New Syfy series catching on, proving TV doesn’t have to come from premium cable

WILDLIFE TREE: Tofino Poet Laureate Christine Lowther stands next to a giant cedar tree on District Lot 114, the site of Tofino’s controversial affordable housing project. The tree was pinned with an official Ministry of Forests yellow wildlife tree sign to educate fallers that the tree needs to be left standing for food, shelter and nesting. (Nora O’Malley photo)
Tofino author Christine Lowther calling for poetry about trees

“I’m thrilled to be of service to trees through poetry.”

West Coast-themed metal art by Nanaimo artists Hayley Willoughby (pictured), her father Jack and partner Blair LeFebvre is on display in the window of Lululemon at Woodgrove Centre from now until March 13 as part of the store’s monthly local artist program. (Josef Jacobson/The News Bulletin)
Metal artists present cross-generational show at Nanaimo’s Woodgrove Centre

Work by Hayley Willoughby, her partner and father on display in Lululemon window

Vancouver Island Symphony principal violinist and concertmaster Calvin Dyck is among the musicians performing in the upcoming Salmon and Trout concert. (Photo courtesy HA Photography)
Vancouver Island Symphony will make a splash with fish-themed quintets concert

Performance was to take place in November but was rescheduled due to COVID-19

Nico Rhodes, Lucas Smart, James McRae and Kosma Busheikin (from left) recorded their set for the Nanaimo International Jazz Festival’s online video series at the Harbour City Theatre in December. (Photo courtesy François Savard)
Music starts next week at online Nanaimo International Jazz Festival

Ten free, virtual performances to occur over three weeks in March

The original artwork created by local artist Emily Thiessen, is featured as the Commercial Alley’s eighth installation. (City of Victoria)
 The original artwork created by local artist Emily Thiessen, is featured as the Commercial Alley’s eighth installation. (City of Victoria)
Victoria calls for artists to fill Commercial Alley gallery

Competition open to artists in the Capital Regional District

Cowichan Valley author Teresa Schapansky’s books for young readers have become a phenomenon on Amazon. (Submitted)
Cowichan author tops Amazon charts

Award-winning author Teresa Schapansky learned of a need for low-level readers in the classroom

Nadia Rieger restocks some of the art supplies at the Crows Nest Artist Collective. Their move to stocking more art supplies over the course of the pandemic was a response to increased demand, which she thinks shows people have been turning to creating art to cope with mental health struggles due to lockdowns and restrictions on other activities. Photo by Mike Davies/Campbell River Mirror
Vancouver Islanders using art to conquer COVID blues

It seems people have been turning to their creative sides to stay mentally and emotionally healthy

Chris Bullock, Parksville artist, stands next to his ‘Mermother’ series, on display at the McMillan Arts Centre until Feb. 29. Bullock himself will be at the MAC from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. every Saturday until the end of the month. (Mandy Moraes photo)
Parksville artist Chris Bullock’s unique illustrations on display

‘I’m heavily influenced by old comic book styles from the 1950s’

Most Read