A petition launched by a group of University of Victoria students calls for the renaming of Trutch Street. (Google Maps)

A petition launched by a group of University of Victoria students calls for the renaming of Trutch Street. (Google Maps)

B.C. students lobby to get racist official’s name off Victoria street

University of Victoria students say Trutch Street puts racist history on a pedestal

A group of University of Victoria students have launched a petition to rename a Victoria street as an act of decolonization.

The online campaign asks the city to remove Joseph Trutch’s name from Trutch Street, in the capital city’s Fairfield neighbourhood.

Joseph Trutch created oppressive policies that displaced Indigenous peoples across B.C. Historians have documented Trutch’s active anti-Indigenous and racist attitude as well as his efforts to remove Indigenous peoples’ land rights and autonomy.

RELATED: B.C. First Nation makes claim for sale of reserve lands 150 years ago

The campaign, launched by University of Victoria students Jade Baird, Rachel Dufort, Sicily Fox, and Ashley Yaredic for a class on decolonization, says the street signs honour that negative history.

“They represent a colonial history and there was a lot of genocide in that history,” Baird says. “I would hope Victoria is the kind of city that doesn’t want to put racism on a pedestal.”

On its website, the Victoria Heritage Foundation says Trutch was born in 1826 in England. He worked as a civil engineer and came to Victoria with his wife in 1859, the foundation says, at which time they had their home built on what would become Trutch Street. Trutch was elected to the Vancouver Island Legislative Assembly in 1862 and was appointed surveyor-general for B.C. in 1864.

But in that role Trutch helped to systematically shrink Indigenous reserves.

“Trutch was a racist that put his racism into policy which forever shaped the Indigenous Peoples rights to their land in British Columbia and beyond,” says the students’ petition.

READ ALSO: Victoria to remove Sir John A. Macdonald statue from City Hall

During a 2003 land claims workshop at the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs, Bruce Granville Miller, a professor at the University of B.C., called Trutch repressive, and lamented the use of his name for a separate street in Vancouver. Trutch reduced reserve land by 92 per cent during his work as commissioner of lands, Miller said.

“He believed the Indians have really no rights to the lands they claim, nor are they of any actual value or utility to them.”

Removing the namesake street is a small step, Baird says, but an important one.

“There’s always so many concerns about erasing history but we’re not taking him out of the history books,” Baird says. “We have a colonial history and it’s always going to be part of our history but we don’t need to put them on a pedestal.”

The campaign had garnered more than 300 signatures as of March 16. The group hopes to present the petition to Victoria council on March 25.

In 2017 the University of Victoria renamed a residence building that bore the name of Joseph Trutch after student Lisa Schnitzler wrote a research paper on him and compared it with UVic’s policies.

At that time the university said in a release that Trutch’s “negative approach to the land rights of First Nations people and disregard for their concerns” conflict with its “mission, vision and values.”

For more news from Vancouver Island and beyond delivered daily into your inbox, please click here.

READ ALSO: University of Victoria renames building bearing name of alleged racist politician


Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email: nina.grossman@blackpress.ca. Follow us on Instagram.
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

historyracismVictoria

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

B.C.’s public health restrictions on non-essential travel are reinforced by orders effective April 23, 2021 to stay within your own regional health authority except for essential travel such as work and medical appointmens. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 non-essential travel ban takes effect, $575 fines approved

Checks on highways, ferries between Lower Mainland, Vancouver Island, Interior

Carter Spring
Dynamiter’s Spring ready for next challenge with Ice Wolves

Submitted by EMANUEL SEQUIERA Kimberley Dynamiter Carter Spring is ready to make… Continue reading

Kimberley case counts not at the point for 18 years and older community vaccination, says Interior Health. (File photo)
Many factors considered for smaller community-wide vaccination: Interior Health

East Kootenay resort town’s COVID-19 situation not at the point of community-wide vaccination, say officials

Richard Desautel with supporters outside the courthouse in Nelson, B.C., in 2017. Photo: Bill Metcalfe
UPDATED: Sinixt win historic decision at Supreme Court of Canada

The decision essentially reverses a 1956 declaration the Sinixt were extinct

Mark Skage and his son Mica during the filming of a West Kootenay episode of Start ‘em Young. Photo: Submitted
TV show films West Kootenay hunting trip

Start ‘Em Young aims to encourage kids to get out in the wilderness

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and United States President Joe Biden smile as they say farewell following a virtual joint statement in Ottawa, Tuesday, February 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau pledges to cut emissions by 40% to 45% by 2030, short of U.S. goal

Trudeau announced target during a virtual climate summit convened by U.S. President Joe Biden

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Canada buys 65M Pfizer booster shots for protection against COVID-19 variants

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the deal with Pfizer includes options to add 30 million doses in both 2022 and 2023, and an option for 60 million doses in 2024

A plan flew over the Lower Mainland with a sign expressing some Canucks fans’ discontent with the team’s general manager. (Niqhil Velji - Twitter Screenshot)
#FireBenning movement gets off the ground in Metro Vancouver

Canucks fans raise enough money to fly banner over Metro Vancouver asking for team GM to be canned

The freed osprey keeps a wary eye on its rescuers after being deposited on its nest. (Photo credit: Greg Hiltz)
Hydro crew in Ashcroft gets osprey rescue call-out they won’t soon forget

Bird was tangled in baling wire hanging from a hydro pole, necessitating a tricky rescue

The Sandhill Cranes had been feeding in a slough near the railway tracks and took flight when were disturbed by atrain. Bob Whetham photo
Urban wildlife Part X: The Kootenay birds of 2021

The work of local photographers in the Kootenay Advertiser in 2021. Part X. With links to Parts I-IX

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth speaks to media at the Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Monday February 5, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. officials to announce travel restrictions today to limit COVID-19 spread

Mike Farnworth is expected to give details of what the government views as essential travel

MLA Shirley Bond, right, answers questions during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on February 19, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Former B.C. gaming minister says she wasn’t told directly about dirty cash flowing to casinos

Shirley Bond said Thursday civil forfeiture, gang violence and gambling addiction were also major concerns in 2011

RCMP Constable Etsell speaks to tourists leaving the area at a police roadblock on Westside Road south of Fintry, B.C., Thursday, July 23, 2009. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Yvonne Berg
B.C. police say they take ‘exception’ to conducting roadblocks limiting travel

Asking the police to enforce roadblocks exposes officers to further risk and possible COVID-19 infections, says federation president Brian Sauve

Most Read