City councillors in New Westminster were set to discuss at their meeting Monday night whether to remove the long-standing statue of Judge Matthew Begbie from the front of its provincial courthouse.
Councillors Nadine Nakagawa and Chuck Puchmayr were set to table a motion that seeks to remove the statue because of Begbie’s role in the wrongful hanging of six Tsilhqot’in Nation chiefs in Quesnel in 1864 and 1865.
The chiefs had attacked and killed members of one of the colonial government’s road crews after the crew had trespassed on their territory. The government offered a meeting to discuss peace, but when the Tsilhqot’in chiefs arrived, they were instead arrested, convicted and hanged.
Begbie had been the judge presiding over the trial that resulted in the wrongful hanging.
His statue is a “symbol of the colonial era and this grave injustice,” reads the motion, which also proposes to put the statue somewhere else and that the city engage with the Tsilhqot’in Nation.
“The City of New West is working on moving forward with truth and reconciliation and we have a lot of work to do as the first city of British Columbia,” said Nakagawa.
She said she has received mixed reaction, some supporting the removal while others saying it is erasing history.
“The statue, as it stands, doesn’t represent history, and the motion really offers an opportunity for us to tell a nuanced history of who Begbie was.”
Nakagawa said she doesn’t know yet where the statue might be moved or what might replace it, but that it will be decided after a public consultation should the motion move ahead.
In 2017, the Law Society of BC removed a statue of Begbie from its downtown Vancouver lobby.