An ArmchairMayor.ca editorial by Mel Rothenburger.
EVERY YEAR, thousands flock to Roderick Haig-Brown Provincial Park in the Shuswap to enjoy the Adams River sockeye run.
That park will soon be no more — at least not by its current name — assuming that proposed legislative amendments are passed renaming it and two other provincial parks to indigenous names.
Roderick Haig-Brown Park will become known as Tsutswecw Park. It means “many fish” in Secwepemc.
As explained by Environment Minister George Heyman, it’s part of reconciliation efforts. The Haig-Brown family is reported as being just fine with the name change but I question both the change and the rationale.
Changing geographical names has, until now, been part of historical cleansing, aimed at those who were connected to the creation of residential schools, exploited First Nations or were arguable racist.
Roderick Haig-Brown was none of those. He was an outdoorsman, conservationist and prolific author. The park was named after him to recognize his work in preserving the Fraser River salmon habitat.
Two years ago he was named a National Historic Person, meaning that he’s recognized by the federal government as someone who is nationally significant in the history of the country.
I’m at a loss, therefore, to understand how erasing his name from the park and replacing it with an indigenous one in any way promotes reconciliation. Every part of the province surely has an indigenous name — using the argument that a particular place has historic and cultural significance to local indigenous populations could be extended throughout B.C.
But many non-indigenous people have done good things. They deserve to be honoured by having a park or a mountain or a river named after them.
There’s nothing wrong with a place having two names, by the way. Jacko Lake, for example, is also known as Pipsell.
So instead of erasing his name from a park that’s funded by all taxpayers in the province, why not call it Roderick Haig-Brown Tsutswecw Provincial Park?
That would be conciliatory.
Mel Rothenburger’s Armchair Mayor editorials appear Mondays through Thursdays on CFJC- TV. His Armchair Mayor column is published Saturdays on ArmchairMayor.ca and CFJC Today. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org