Playing the Indian Card

Wednesday, August 08, 2018

Renaming Stanley Park

Frederick Arthur Stanley

There is now a push to rename Stanley Park, in Vancouver. The new name: X̱wáýx̱way.

Canada is, in world terms, gravely lacking in history, shared culture, and sense of place. We are too young. This impoverishes Canadian life daily. Most of our town and cities west of Ontario, simply number the streets. Stanley Park is one of rather few places in Canada with an international cachet. The last thing we need is a “Cultural Revolution” to tear down any relics of our shared history. Yet that is just what is happening.

So far as I can tell from online biographies and news reports, Lord Stanley himself is not even being accused of anything making him unworthy of commemoration. By all accounts he was a very nice man, who took his responsibilities seriously and showed commitment to Canada—things like endowing the Stanley Cup. He made a point of personally going out West to meet with First Nations, and he spoke French. He spent his last years in philanthropy.

His only fault was having pale skin.

The drive to erase him is apparently only because an aboriginal name is supposedly intrinsically better than the name of some “European” Canadian. Indigenous history trumps shared Canadian history.

The aboriginal history of Canada is hardly currently ignored in our place names, is it? It is in Canada, Ontario, Toronto, Ottawa, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Quebec, Nunavut, Yukon.

Stanley, as GG, was a symbol of the entire nation. He ought not to be replaced now by a name that is significant only to a portion of the nation. Not “First Nations,” either, but one particular tribe, a few thousand people. For more than one tribe moved regularly through the area, and aboriginal land claims in the Lower Mainland of BC overlap. Any given aboriginal name would automatically favour one native tribe over another, let alone ignore all other Canadians of all other ancestries. The average Canadian or Vancouverite, seeing the proposed new name for the park, would even have a hard time guessing how to pronounce it. That's pretty alienating.

Both the doctrine of human equality and the normal responsibilities of government dictate that public lands should be kept and used for the benefit of the population as a whole, not some ethnic subgroup or class. And shared heritage should be promoted, not factionalism. That logically includes park names. 

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