A group of University of Victoria students determined to see Joseph Trutch’s name stricken from a short Fairfield street in relation to racist policies and dehumanizing of Indigenous peoples in B.C. made their case virtually to Victoria city council.
Jade Baird, Sicily Fox, Ashley Yaredic and Rachel Dufort delivered the results of their you.leadnow.ca petition Thursday night, asking the city for the removal with nearly 1,400 virtual signatures. The total fell short of organizers’ goal of 2,000 but was significant enough to make a powerful statement to council.
“We hope that you take the request of well over 1,000 Victoria residents seriously,” Baird said as part of a video presentation. “As one of our petition signees said, ‘streets should be named for beautiful inclusive people, places and things.’ Trutch was none of the above.”
Reuben Rose-Redwood, professor of geography and chair of the committee for urban studies at UVic, followed up the students’ presentation with one of his own that drew on his research.
In his experience, he said, jurisdictions are often led to re-evaluate the legacy of people whose views, actions or policies come to be understood as inconsistent with present-day values.
“The case of Trutch Street is a textbook example of a street that deserves to be renamed because it honours a historical figure whose racist views were extreme, even for his own time,” he said. “And he not only held such views but put them into practice through policy, by dramatically reducing the size of First Nations land reserves in the province.”
Based on sheer numbers, the student group’s online efforts have generated more interest and support than a Vancouver online effort to remove Trutch’s name from a street in the Kitsilano neighbourhood. That change.org petition has attracted just 249 signatories since it was first begun two years ago.