It is now a practice, before a public event, to have an Indigenous land acknowledgement. Is this mere tokenism under the guise of “truth and reconciliation” with Indigenous communities even when our province continues to have a colonial name, flag and coat-of-arms?
“British Columbia” was chosen on July 24, 1858, by Queen Victoria, a monarch who never set foot in these parts. Her decision, though said to be hesitant, was unilateral and without consultation 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. We have laboured under this colonial pretension for too long. Besides the abbreviated “B.C.” commonly used today is meaningless. When can we take pride in our province’s name, flag and coat-of-arms?
The government should ask the Indigenous peoples to come up with a new name that will reflect the province’s more than 10,000 years of history, awesome grandeur, diverse bio-geoclimatic zones and its mosaic of multi cultures.
The new name – hopefully easily pronounceable, spelled and short — could be proclaimed on the 150th anniversary of the province’s entry into the Canadian confederation on July 20, 2021.
This 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.
A new name will demonstrate solid confidence in ourselves 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 all our talk about reconciliation with our Indigenous peoples is only tokenism and not full and respectful inclusion.