Today, it has become a practice, before a public event, to have an indigenous land acknowledgement. Is this mere tokenism, under the guise of Truth and Reconciliation, even when our province continues to have a COLONIAL name, flag and coat-of-arms?
Queen Victoria, a monarch who never set foot in these parts, chose the name “British Columbia” on July 24, 1858, by. Her decision, though said to be hesitant, was unilateral. She did not consult with the mostly indigenous people who lived here.
Vancouver Island was a British colony for just 22 years. The mainland was a colony for 13 years. British rule ended in 1871. Yet we cling to the “British” moniker while ignoring [a] the more than 10,000 years that indigenous communities inhabited these lands, and [b] our 149 years in the Canadian confederation.
Some will argue that a name change will dishonour British roots and heritage, and, oh yes, tradition. They conveniently forget the roots, heritage and traditions of our indigenous communities, who have lived here for more than 10,000 years, and those of us who are not of British [today a minority] ancestry.
We are not British. And Columbus never came here. It is meaningless name, particularly when abbreviated to B.C., and confusing [there is a Colombia country and B.C. is mostly commonly interpreted as ‘Before Christ” or, tongue in cheek, “British Colonists”]. We have laboured under this colonial pretension for too long.
There were many Canadians who had their knickers in a knot when Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson proposed a new flag on June 15, 1964, that was inaugurated on February 15, 1965, a mere eight months later. Was this a mistake? Should we have kept the old Canadian Red Ensign with the Union Jack and coat of arms on a red background so that we could continue to show our gratitude to the British?
Today the Maple Leaf is the pride of all Canadians.
When can we take pride in our province’s name, flag and coat-of-arms?
A new name, flag and coat of arms would be in accordance with Premier John Horgan’s recent challenge of “thinking outside the box” in the “new normal” after the COVID-19 pandemic.
It will demonstrate solid confidence in our selves as a province that is inclusive of all its residents, rather than clinging to coattails of British colonists.
The name, of course, cannot be fully changed overnight because it is a complex matter. However, many countries had the fortitude to make a start and go through a liberating process of choosing a new name [i.e. Ghana, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Zambia, Mali, etc.] and implementing it fast.
If we keep the status quo, we are only confirming that many in our midst still have the “colonizers’ supremacy culture” and all their talk about reconciliation with our indigenous peoples and being a multicultural province is only tokenism and not full and respectful inclusion.
Editor’s Note: Ben Pires has sent this letter to a number of newspapers and B.C. municipal councils and regional districts asking for support to rename the province.