Victoria is reviving the discussion to rename Trutch Street, as cities nationwide reckon with monuments and streets that honour figures with racist legacies.
Trutch Street is named for Joseph Trutch, chief commissioner of lands and works in the 1850s whose contempt for Indigenous people showed in his racist speech and policies that reduced the size of reserves.
Victoria councillors Ben Isitt, Jeremy Loveday and Sarah Potts, and Mayor Lisa Helps, are proposing changing the two-block stretch of Trutch Street to Truth Street. Councillors are expected to discuss the proposed name change Thursday.
Isitt said the idea of a name change has been around for the past decade and many community members have expressed an interest in removing Trutch’s name from the city street.
“He lived on this Island for a relatively short period of time. His contribution in public life had a devastating impact on Indigenous people, and so it makes no sense to me that the City of Victoria would choose to honour a municipal asset after this individual, he said.
Margaret O’Donnell, a Trutch Street resident for 30 years, said she was pleased the idea of a name change has been picked up again.
“It’s time for us to move on to something more inspiring and hopeful for a name for our street,” O’Donnell said.
Residents petitioned for a name change about a decade ago, and in 2018 a community meeting was held to discuss his legacy. This year, a group of University of Victoria students presented a petition to Victoria councillors calling for a name change.
“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,” the group wrote in the petition, which has just over 1,300 signatures.
When O’Donnell first heard of the name-change debate years ago, she said she was just “waking up” to the effects of colonization on Indigenous people and she took it upon herself to learn about Trutch’s legacy.
“He had a cruel heart,” she said.
Florence Dick, a member of the Songhees Nation, said she’s more interested in seeing concrete action to improve the economic status of Indigenous people than a name change.
“Why don’t you come on the reserve and see what we really need?” she said. “We need people’s homes repaired.”
Dick said Indigenous people have been deprived of the resources of their own land, and live in inadequate reserve homes — the result of racist colonial policy — that perpetuate health issues.
The motion coming to councillors Thursday asks council to invite comments from the Songhees and Esquimalt Nations, the City Family, residents of Trutch Street and the Fairfield Gonzales Community Association. The motion also directs city staff to report back on the implications of changing the name for the approximately 60 households that would be affected by an address change.
Residents would likely have to change their addresses for various accounts and documents, such as electricity, internet and phone bills, car insurance, financial documents, driver’s licences, and employment and educational documents.