British Columbia

Chinese-Canadian veteran's group issues call to remove Duff Pattullo's name from new bridge

With a new Pattullo bridge in sight, a group of Chinese-Canadian veterans is calling on the government to come up with a new name more reflective of the community.

Group's president says it was 'a very dark time for ethnic people' when Pattullo was running province

A Chinese Canadian veterans group says when former premier Duff Pattullo was running the province, it was 'a very dark time for ethnic people' and is calling for a name change more reflective of the community. (CBC)

For 83 years, the Pattullo Bridge, linking Surrey and New Westminster, has carried the name of former premier Thomas 'Duff' Pattullo. But, with a new bridge in sight, a group of Chinese-Canadian veterans are calling on the government to come up with a new name representative of the diverse people living across the province.

King Wan, the president of Chinese-Canadian Veterans Unit 280 said "when premier Pattullo was running the province [in 1937], it was a very dark time for ethnic people."

He said the name brings with it a sad and destructive past and reminds Chinese Canadians about a premier who they say wanted to block the Chinese community from making Canada its home and having the right to be franchised and able to vote.

"Perhaps we should name that bridge under a different name to honour those who came, I guess, you know, in the last century that have made a lot of contributions to the province," Wan said.

He said it's time to put history in the past, and while he will not push to change the name of the current bridge, he'd like to see a new name on the new bridge that is set to start construction later this year.

"I'm not suggesting it be a Chinese name or whatever .. but maybe consider it being voted on by the citizens in the area," Wan said.

New Wesminster NDP candidate Jennifer Whiteside, said she's not married to the Pattullo name for the new bridge. 

"It would be entirely appropriate to look for a new name that reflects the diversity of the community, a name the community can celebrate. Yeah, I think that would be wonderful," Whiteside said.

She said she would rely on the independent processes that exist already to address naming of major infrastructure projects, which would take into account the feelings of the community.

On the other side of the Pattullo Bridge, Surrey-Whalley Liberal candidate Shaukat Khan said the name change is one he'd also support opening to consultation.

"As far as I'm concerned, we should always be engaging with our communities and taking input on all [of] the projects.

Both parties are in agreement a name change wouldn't be off the table, but a consultation process would be necessary to decide the correct one.

Wan said he'd like to see a vote by community members.

"A new bridge, a new beginning, a new era, it will really help strengthen our local population to be more inclusive," Wan said.

The project for the new bridge is set to start later this year and carry through until 2023. The $1.4-billion project will see a new four-lane bridge built with wider lanes connecting Surrey and New Westminster.

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