The governing nation for Métis people in B.C. is calling on the provincial government to give the Pattullo Bridge’s replacement a name that recognizes the province’s Indigenous people.
The Fraser River crossing, which links New Westminster to Surrey, is named after Thomas Dufferin (Duff) Pattullo, who was premier of B.C. from 1933 until 1941. A park, mountains and glaciers in the province also bear his name.
In a letter to Premier John Horgan , Métis Nation B.C. president Clara Morin Dal Col asked that the government consider naming the new structure Reconciliation Bridge.
“My preference is Reconciliation Bridge for the simple fact that it covers First Nations and Métis. It covers all Indigenous people in the province,” Morin Dal Col said.
Alternatively, Morin Dal Col said, it could be named after a prominent local Indigenous person or using a local Indigenous word for the bridge.
The bridge stands on the traditional territory of the Coast Salish people, including the Kwantlen, Katzie, Sto:lo and Tsawwassen, among others.
“Historically, this was a trading route and there were numerous Indigenous nations that went through there, including the Métis,” Morin Dal Col said. “To have this renamed, it’s hugely important and the right step for the government in this province to help reconciliation.”
The current structure, which opened in late 1937, is owned and maintained by TransLink, the regional transportation authority. Its $1.4-billion replacement will be paid for and owned by the provincial government. Fraser Crossing Partners was awarded the contract to build and design the new bridge and it’s expected to be in service in the fall of 2023.
Morin Dal Col said governments and organizations across the province need to look at renaming highways, landmarks and institutions to reflect Indigenous people in the province, and calling the Pattullo Reconciliation Bridge could be a good first step.
“It’s not going to cost them anything to rename the bridge, and so I hope it’s something that they will be committed to doing and taking very seriously,” she said.
Métis Nation B.C. is not the first group to call for the Pattullo Bridge to be renamed.
Last month, during the provincial election campaign, a group of Chinese-Canadian veterans said they would like to see Pattullo’s name removed from the new bridge.
During the Second World War, Pattullo was opposed to allowing Chinese people to join the military, fearing their service would give them an argument for enfranchisement.
King Wan, president of the Chinese-Canadian Veterans Unit 280, could not be reached for comment but he told reporters last month he thought the new name should be voted on by the community.
A spokesperson for the premier’s office said in an emailed statement that a name has not yet been chosen for the new bridge that will replace the Pattullo. The process for considering a name for a new project starts with reaching out to local stakeholders, including governments, Indigenous communities and community groups.
“We look forward to beginning that process and our government will ensure it is as inclusive as possible to reflect the values of British Columbians. We look forward to sharing more information about the naming process in the months ahead,” the spokesperson said.
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