British Columbia

Vancouver mayor moves to change street named for colonial leader who cut size of B.C. reserves

Mayor Kennedy Stewart said he would be putting forward a motion to change the name of Trutch Street, a 17-block road in Kitsilano named for Joseph Trutch, who served as lieutenant governor from 1871 to 1876. 

Joseph Trutch moved to reduce the agreed upon size of reserves and made derogatory claims about First Nations

Joseph Trutch, B.C.'s first lieutenant-governor, made a variety of unilateral decisions to reduce the rights and land claims of B.C.'s Indigenous communities. (Christer Waara/CBC)

The City of Vancouver may soon change the name of a street that honours B.C.'s first lieutenant governor.

Mayor Kennedy Stewart said he would be putting forward a motion to change the name of Trutch Street, a 17-block road in Kitsilano named for Joseph Trutch, who served as lieutenant governor from 1871 to 1876. 

"I have spoken with Musqueam leadership about renaming Trutch Street and am in full support. Joseph Trutch actively worked to marginalize Indigenous people and seize their lands," said Stewart in a statement. 

"There have been calls to do this for at least a decade and it's long past time to act."

The earliest Stewart's motion would likely be debated would be at city council's June 22 meeting. If approved, the actual name change would likely take some time due to finding a replacement and the logistical issues involved.

Trutch's legacy

Trutch was a key part of B.C. colonial politics and was one of the lead politicians who negotiated the province's entry into Confederation. 

But his legacy on Indigenous issues has been roundly criticized, primarily for his decision to reduce the size of previously agreed upon reserves established by then governor James Douglas by approximately 90 per cent.  

He is also quoted in letters and diaries making discriminatory remarks toward local First Nations on multiple occasions.

"I shake my head every time I drive my kids to school and pass [that street]," said Wade Grant, an intergovernmental officer with the Musqueam Nation.  

"Joseph Trutch was an assimilationist, someone that tried to destroy First Nations people, and we have a street named after him right near the Musqueam community."  

Grant and Ginger Gosnell-Myers, Vancouver's first ever Indigenous relations manager, both told CBC News earlier this week that renaming Trutch Street would be an easy way for the city to show its commitment to reconciliation. 

"Trutch has been a notorious anti-Indigenous rights architect in our history and yet he is still acknowledged and honoured with a street name," said Gosnell-Myers.    

There have been campaigns to change the name of Trutch Street — both in Vancouver and Victoria, where he also has a street — for many years. But in the past, members of Vancouver's Civic Asset Naming Committee have said the layers of databases and costs associated with changing a street were too onerous. 

Instead, the city has focused on naming new streets, alleyways and civic assets after more diverse figures. 

"Indigenous invisibility is an architectural and design issue," said Gosnell-Myers. 

"It's also a place name issue."

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