The removal of symbols of what we now know to be an injustice is a mistake and, although I respect city council for taking an audacious step, removing these figures without community engagement only compounds the mistake.
It is impossible to go forward, to transform our behaviour, to celebrate change, if we hide history. It is because of this history that we strive to be better, to behave in a more humane manner and to seek truth and justice.
During the 1800s, when Britain was trying to colonize the rest of the world, there were many atrocities and, unfortunately, coupled with the wild abandon of gold rush fever, I have no doubt that Judge Begbie rushed to judgment.
Horrors and atrocities on anyone or any group of people should be condemned at every opportunity. The removal of symbols is to confuse forgiveness with asking people to forget.
To suggest that anyone should forget is to continue the abuse; however, we must make every effort to not allow the horrors of the past define our future, especially when decisions were made with available information and practices of that day.
Think about it, with all our science and CSI acumen, it took us until 2014 to exonerate the Chilcotin leaders. We have to ask, why did it take so long?
What will happen to Begbie Street?
If we do not accept that conflict exists, there is no reason to strive for transformation and acceptance of each other.
My recommendation, instead of removing these symbols, is to add a plaque briefly describing who these people were and how we have come together in spite of them. I think this would be a testimony of our learnings, transformation, intercultural acceptance and practice of inclusivity.
Anyone who would like to continue this conversation should come to the New Westminster Community Action Planning Table on May 28 beginning at 7 p.m. We meet at the Centennial Centre (near Canada Games Pool). Admission is free.
Angela Sealy, New Westminster
Editor’s note: Angela Sealy was an independent candidate in the 2018 New Westminster city council election.