An online petition demanding Victoria rename Trutch Street in Fairfield has just been launched.
Trutch Street is named after Sir Joseph William Trutch, a prominent politician once responsible for dramatically reducing Indigenous reserves in British Columbia. He was also well-known for his racist views towards Indigenous people, referring to them as ugly savages.
Launched Saturday, the petition urges city councillors to remove Trutch’s name, citing his policies, which ultimately resulted in the displacement of countless Indigenous peoples in B.C.
“We do not believe in celebrating racist individuals, which is why we want the councillors of the City of Victoria to vote to remove Trutch’s name from the street,” reads the petition, which was created by Jade Baird, Rachel Dufort, Sicily Fox, and Ashley Yaredic.
The street was named after Trutch following his death in the early 1900s and is the site where his former home — now a heritage building — stands.
Speaking to CHEK News, Baird said the time has come to rid the street of its current name.
“Trutch represents such a horrible genocidal system and the fact that we commemorate him and put him on a pedestal is why we wanted to address this issue,” she said, later adding. “We think this is the time to move forward, even if it is just small steps towards decolonization.”
In 1864, Trutch became chief commissioner of lands and works, where he disregarded treaties and displaced Indigenous people throughout the province — often reducing reserves to a fraction of what they were. He later became the province’s first lieutenant-governor when British Columbia joined Confederation in 1871.
Reuben Rose-Redwood, the author of The Political Life of Urban Streetscapes: Naming, Politics, and Place, described Trutch as an extreme racist, even for his time, during an interview with CHEK News in 2018.
“He likened Indigenous people to dogs. He called them lazy and ugly and said things of that nature,” said Rose-Redwood.
In a letter to his family, Trutch once called Indigenous people the “ugliest and laziest creatures” he ever saw. He later described them as “utter savages” living along B.C.’s coast.
“Trutch was one of the most racist individuals in Victoria’s colonial history,” said Baird. “He turned that racism into policy and removed Indigenous people from their lands. He is such an egregious figure in colonial history.”
Baird believes Trutch Street would be easier to rename, compared to larger streets that are named after other political figures with chequered pasts.
“It’s so small that it is a great first step towards renaming streets here in Victoria,” she said. “Remaining Trutch, with not even one hundred residences on that street, compared to something like Cook or Douglas, is a lot easier.”
However, Baird acknowledged that changing a street name isn’t easy, or fast.
“It’s a long process to get a street renamed and we don’t think it will happen in the next couple of weeks,” she said. “That’s one of the reasons why we decided to do a petition because it can gain steam over weeks and months.”
Baird’s petition is by no means the first attempt at getting the street renamed.
A public hearing that focused on whether the city should axe the Trutch name from the street was held in 2018. It came six months after a University of Victoria student successfully petition the school to remove the name of Sir Joseph William Trutch from a residential building on campus.
Baird said she is aware of the past attempts and hopes the petition will result in city councillors, at the very least, discussing the name change once again.
“While we hope to get as many signatures as possible, we also hope that people will want to e-mail city council,” she said. “Essentially, if we are making enough noise, we’re hoping [city council] will debate the issue again.”
Of course, the main objective is getting Trutch’s name stripped from the street.
“It’s a small step, but a big statement if we could actually get the name removed,” said Baird.
Baird said she is hoping to discuss the matter in front of city council later this week.
Her petition can be viewed here.