Stanley Park name change overdue

Three summers ago, Prince George city council voted to changed the name of Fort George Park to Lheidli T'enneh Memorial Park.

Now Vancouver is looking at doing the same with Stanley Park.

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The Vancouver park board has approved a "colonial audit" dating back to 1888 to chronicle the forced removal of First Nations communities from Stanley Park and other public spaces.

The board will also apologize to three area First Nations for seizing traditional territory, demolishing burial grounds for roads and community amenities.

The completion of that audit, along with the apology, could lead to the renaming of the iconic Stanley Park, named after Lord Frederick Stanley, a former Governor General of Canada.

"Stanley Park was the home to many First Nations peoples and over the course of time they were evicted, removed from the park," park board chair Stuart Mackinnon said. "What we call our western beaches - Kitsilano, Jericho, Locarno and Spanish Banks - were also home to First Nations people, a gathering place and a place for food collection. They were all removed from there as well."

Unfortunately, this commendable work will just fuel another tiresome round of complaining from historically-illiterate, culturally-entitled white people who will ask with wide-eyed ignorance when Canada's Indigenous peoples will "move forward," stop living in the past and stop messing with history.

To move forward, however, we need to be honest about our past.

That whitewashed version of history taught in schools up until recently was a racist fantasy of white settlers arriving to bring civilization to an empty wilderness populated by only a handful of destitute savages.

More than land was stolen from Canada's proud and diverse First Nations. So was their way of life, their children, their culture and their language.

Canada's first prime minister, John. A MacDonald, was one of the architects of the attempted eradication of the identity of Aboriginal people, an effort that meets the definition of genocide as laid out by the United Nations.

That honesty is uncomfortably painful, because it shatters the childish illusion that Canada was founded peacefully, not through conflict as the republic to the south was.

What's also uncomfortably painful is making meaningful amends, rather than just offering shallow apologies that allow the status quo to remain unchallenged and unchanged.

Acknowledging Canada's Indigenous peoples through geographical names is already well-established, starting with the name of the country itself.

More recently, name changes have been adopted from Lheidli T'enneh Memorial Park to Haida Gwaii.

There's no need to fret about the disappearance of Canada's colonial history. There's still British Columbia and Prince George and Prince Rupert and Vancouver and the Fraser River and Mount Robson and on and on and on.

As for poor Lord Stanley, whose name might longer grace Vancouver's amazing park, he will hardly be forgotten.

His name already graces the best trophy in professional sports, which Brett Connolly will bring to Prince George Aug. 20 after winning it as a member of the Washington Capitals in June.

Visiting a renamed Stanley Park will help all Canadians see that special place in a whole new light, one that celebrates Indigenous peoples, their history and their vital role in Canada's present and future.

That's one step moving forward.

-- Editor-in-chief Neil Godbout

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