Column: Having an identity crisis

What’s that you say?

Change the names of some of B.C.’s legendary folk who helped promote conservation and justice in a very large way. It may have been in years gone by, but for the record, and B.C.’s history, it was men like Roderick Haig-Brown, crusader in hip boots, that inspired many Canadians through his many outdoor books and articles about conservation, and ethics in fishing, and all outdoors.

Although his pen is stilled, his legacy will benefit generations to come. Roderick came to Canada from England at the age of 18. He settled on an acreage on the banks of the stream he grew to love, the Campbell River. He was a logger, trapper, fishing guide and gentleman farmer. Out of this rich background, he became an outdoor writer of many books. He was also a judge in his later life.

Haig-Brown was also an advocate of crusades against logging companies that contaminated streams with DDT spraying back in the 1950s, and took on the BC Power Commission regarding a storage dam in Strathcona Park. His first love was fly fishing, about which he wrote many books. He wrote of ethics, restraint, putting fish back and, more importantly, about the beauty, fascination of rivers and conservation. Roderick Haig-Brown died in October of 1976 while tending his garden beside the river he loved so much.

It was in 1978 that the BC Wildlife Federation requested to the B.C. government that a memorial and park be established in his name. A prominent member of the Social Credit caucus reminded the party that Haig-Brown was sympathetic to the NDP. The plan was cancelled. But a fitting tribute to Haig-Brown by the California Trout Incorporated changed that. A potent conservation group, they vowed to have the park move forward. But change is inevitable and an aboriginal person wishes to have the park renamed. As Canada celebrates its 150 years in confederation, profiles of 150 Canadians come to light.

One being the first provincial judge, Mathew Baille Begbie, also known as the “Hangin’ Judge.” He was lenient at times. Championed the rights of indigenous folk exposed to racism. Judge Begbie was tough, hardy, fair-minded and determined. He wasn’t popular with the unruly miners of the 1885 gold rush on the Fraser River, but held in high regard by the First Nations chiefs, whose rights he defended. He became fluent in Secwepemc, and Tsilhqot’in. He told the government in 1860 that First Nations held aboriginal title that had to be recognized. He forced provincial legislation ensuring that First Nations women were entitled to a share of the estates of their white partners. At times he commuted the expected death sentences of First Nations prisoners. In our history, the Chilcotin war between whites and First Nations warriors culminated in a bitterness of the justice system.

Today, with much pressure from aboriginal groups who, over time, have had outstanding carvers, actors, historians, human rights persons contributing to the Canadian way of life. Some now feel the wrongs that happened 150 years ago should be brought to the forefront, and bring name changes The justice department in Vancouver is removing the plaque in its hallway of Judge Begbie, as is the city of New Westminster removing the statue of Begbie in its square.

We are all of one family in this ever-changing wonderful world we live in and must all work together to have a better life for our children and future generations to come.

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