1,000 signatures reached
To: The City of Victoria
Remove Joseph Trutch's Name From Trutch Street
Joseph Trutch was a racist individual who created racist policies that displaced Indigenous Peoples in British Columbia and beyond. 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. Below, you will find a brief history of who Joseph Trutch was.
A Brief History of Joseph Trutch:
Trutch was born in England in 1826, and later died there in 1904. Trutch arrived on Southern Vancouver Island in 1858.
Throughout his lifetime, Trutch showed extreme contempt for Indigenous Peoples. In a letter he wrote to his family, Trutch said that the Indigenous Peoples were “the ugliest and laziest creatures I ever saw, and we should as soon think of being afraid of our dogs as of them.”
In 1864, Trutch was appointed as chief commissioner of lands and works, which placed him in charge of the Indigenous reserves in British Columbia. Trutch began systematically shrinking the Indigenous reserves, often to 10 percent of their original scope. After thousands of years of living undisturbed, Trutch's actions removed the Indigenous Peoples from their historical land and way of life. Trutch enjoyed this opportunity, saying “The Indians really have no right to the lands they claim, nor are they of any actual value or utility to them.” We know this is untrue, as the Indigenous Peoples had complex practices of stewardship that supported biodiversity and their food systems.
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. He famously said that the Coast Salish Peoples were “utter savages living along the coast, frequently committing murder and robbery amongst themselves, one tribe upon another, and on white people who go amongst them for the purpose of trade.” Trutch cast Indigenous Peoples as lawless and violent, dehumanized them, and systematically displaced them from their land. Today, Victoria still commemorates this blatantly racist individual by naming a street after him.
Why is this important?
Why Decolonization Is Important:
One street, one step.
To create a future where settlers and Indigenous Peoples are equally respected, decolonization is vital. To decolonize, Canada needs to acknowledge its colonial history and abolish the oppressive systems that settlers created during colonization and continue to uphold. Trutch’s name commemorates the oppression of Indigenous Nations, Peoples, and cultures. In conjunction with current social justice movements, the need for reconciliation is being recognized. There is no better time as settlers to acknowledge our systems of oppression and to dismantle its remaining symbols.
As of right now, Trutch street remains a symbol of cultural genocide. Allowing this name to be used on street signs, addresses, and bus stops, reinforces a colonial history which does not align with present day values.
Why are we commemorating a colonial leader who demonstrated such racist acts towards Indigenous Nations? Removing his namesake is a step towards acknowledging that settlers oppressed other human beings through systems of white supremacy. This is a history that needs to be reconciled. We can remember Joseph Trutch, but we should not celebrate him.
FAQs & Common Concerns
1. "If we remove this street name, are we 'erasing history?'”
This action acknowledges that remembering our shared history is different than honoring a particular individual by placing them on a pedestal. We believe Joseph Trutch’s actions should be remembered, not celebrated. Removing his name from a street sign will not erase him from all the history books. In fact, renaming the street will create a discussion, and people often learn more about a historical figure as a result of this dialogue.
2. "You can’t judge the past by present-day standards!"
True, the actions of the past were not made under current circumstances, but we believe that what is celebrated by our society is the decision of those who do the celebrating. We must choose who we want to celebrate now and not feel obligated to maintain the celebratory choices of past generations. Additionally, Trutch’s views and policies in relation to the Indigenous Peoples were extreme, even compared to the common perspectives of his time, and we believe his racist policies should not be celebrated. We should not celebrate blatantly racist individuals who turned their racism into policy.
3. "Removing this street name is a slippery slope. Where does it stop?"
As removing these types of figures from celebration takes a lot of work, one action does not always lead to a cascade of similar actions. With that said, if there is a good reason for change, we believe change should happen.
4. "Changing this street name will be too expensive and/or inconvenient."
Yes, there are costs associated with changing a street name, but the costs are relatively minimal compared to the city’s overall budget and the progress towards reconciliation that can occur with this action. Luckily, Trutch is one of the shortest streets in the city—very few people would be inconvenienced.
5. "This action is merely symbolic or performative. There are more important things to be working on."
We completely agree that this should not be the end of our work. We see this as one of many necessary actions. We value this action because symbols signify what we value and celebrate as a society. The removal of a racist individual from celebration signifies a small but important change in our cultural values. And, if we cannot even remove a racist figure from our collective celebration on a street sign, how will we be able to address even larger issues of reconciliation and decolonization? We see this action as an accessible start to building our community’s capacity for greater change.
You’ve signed this petition and you want to do more?
Please contact the city councillors of Victoria, BC, and tell them why you think Trutch’s name should be removed from Trutch Street. Their contact information is provided below. You can give them a call, or copy and paste the following message into your email and send it to them.
“Dear City Councillor,
Joseph Trutch was a racist individual who should not be celebrated and commemorated on a street sign. I believe Victoria should decolonize its place names, and Trutch Street is a good place to start. If you want my support in the future, you should vote to remove his name. You have a responsibility to help Victoria reconcile its colonial history, and celebrating a racist figure does not align with my values.
[insert your name]”
You can email all of them, or even just one! Anything helps.
General email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Mayor Lisa Helps
Councillor Marianne Alto
Councillor Stephen Andrew
Councillor Sharmarke Dubow
Councillor Ben Isitt
Councillor Jeremy Loveday
Councillor Sarah Potts
Councillor Charlayne Thornton-Joe
Councillor Geoff Young