EDITOR’S NOTE: Nancy Bepple is taking a well-deserved break this week. In place of her regular column we present an encore column originally published Aug. 7, 2019.
IN TERMS OF LONG WEEKENDS, this is the best time of year. We’ve just had B.C. Day, and just before that it was Canada Day. Within a month, there’s Labour Day.
B.C. Day is technically called a Civic Holiday. I thought it was a statutory holiday across Canada. But I found out, B.C. is one of the few provinces and territories where the holiday is statutory. Everywhere else, the day is celebrated, but, don’t expect to get a paid day off. A bonus reason to love B.C. Day.
British Columbia has one of the least interesting names for our August long weekend, sticking with the tried and true British Columbia Day. Similarly, Saskatchewan calls theirs Saskatchewan Day and New Brunswick calls theirs New Brunswick Day. But elsewhere, there’s a lot of difference.
Alberta celebrates Heritage Day. Manitoba calls it Terry Fox Day. Nova Scotia and PEI call theirs Natal Day. Natal means birth, but actually is a commemoration of the arrival of the railway to this area in 1895. Newfoundland and Labrador celebrates Regatta Day (or more correctly The Royal St John’s Regatta), but technically it’s celebrated on the first Wednesday of September, not the Monday.
Ontario leaves it up to individual municipalities to name it, so the first Monday in August is called Colonel By Day in Ottawa, Joseph Brant Day in Burlington, ON. It is called Benjamin Vaughan day in the City of Vaughan, ON.
Back to British Columbia. The name British Columbia is embedded with colonial significance. It was the British who colonized our province, and started the process of forcing First Nations onto reserves. The Columbia River, which flows through from B.C., through Washington to Oregon, symbolizes the fur trading past.
There have been continued arguments from academics, journalists, activists and First Nations on changing the name of British Columbia, and if so what it should be.
Changing the name of our province is a huge undertaking. We might not be ready to take that on yet. But, there is no reason the name B.C. Day couldn’t be changed. Most provinces have already changed theirs.
The 2014 Supreme Court of Canada decision acknowledged in its Tsilhcot’in decision that the vast majority of B.C. is unceded territory. In the spirit of reconciliation, now would be the time to change the name of B.C. Day.
So if we were to change it, what would it be? Some have suggested a Chinook word, since that was a shared language in the region. Or maybe following the tradition of other provinces, the day should be named after a significant person, or event. The first step should be to ask the First Nations who have occupied the territory in B.C. for eons. They have lived here for 10,000 years. What would they call the entire region, which encompasses so many First Nations? What event would be most significant to commemorate? Which person embodies the spirit of B.C.?
B.C. Day is one of my favorite holidays. There are no presents or parades. There are rarely public speeches or formal events. It’s simply a holiday for getting together with friends and family and celebrate the amazing place we live. Going forward, it would be great to have holiday named to acknowledge the First Nations who have inhabited this province for millennium which we are all so lucky to live in.
It would be amazing if the day reflected our shared journey of reconciliation as well.
Nancy Bepple is a former City councillor of Kamloops with a strong interest in community building projects.