Langley City is looking into a way to honour James Douglas in the municipal park that bears his name.
Councillor Nathan Pachal brought forward a motion to have staff work with the BC Black History Awareness Society and Kwantlen First Nations to erect a plaque and/or interpretive sign in Douglas Park, themed about James Douglas and the Black community in British Columbia, to be unveiled during Black History Month in 2021.
Douglas had a Scottish father and a mother who was a freewoman of colour. He was married to a Cree woman and was the first governor of the Crown colony of British Columbia.
“I think we need to acknowledge the complex history of British Columbia,” Pachal said. “At the same time, there’s been an erasure of black history in British Columbia.”
But he said local First Nations should be consulted because of the complex history of colonization.
Coun. Rosemary Wallace and Mayor Val van den Broek suggested amending the motion to include consulting Katzie, Matsqui and Semiahmoo First Nations as well.
Pachal said he welcomed the amendment and noted that if there is opposition from local First Nations, the project would not go ahead.
In addition to the park motion, the elected leaders of the City have made a public pledge against racism.
“Many of us have watched the civil unrest across the nation and internationally,” van den Broek said.
At the June 15 regular meeting, council joined Janet Austin, Lieutenant Governor of B.C., in opposing racism by taking the #DifferentTogether pledge:
– Our B.C. is inclusive and respects people of all ethnicities, cultures and faiths and their contributions to our collective well-being.
– Our B.C. holds diversity as a fundamental value at the heart of the success, strength and resilience of our communities, workplaces, schools, public and private institutions.
“We pledge to uphold and promote these values, and we commit to speaking up to oppose racism and hate in all its forms,” the pledge said.
Council has always been proud of its mission to build a vibrant, healthy and safe community, the motion said.
“I recognize that cultural diversity is an essential part of community building as it allows citizens to connect and to learn through the sharing of art, music, dance, foods, tradition, and culture,” van den Broek said. “While we have diversity in our community, our efforts do not end there, and we all know that racism and hate are still a reality for many. Now is the time for all citizens to listen, learn, and address these concerns so we as a society can together build a more equitable and inclusive future for all.”
Pachal spoke briefly about the racism he’s experienced in his life as the child of a black mother and white father.
“I was called names in elementary school related to the colour of my skin,” said Pachal.
His uncle immigrated from Liberia and Pachal saw the systemic racism he experienced.
“There’s systems in place that discourage people” from having the same opportunity that others can take for granted, he said.
Metro Vancouver is looking at the Regional Growth Strategy through an equity lens. He’d like to see the City do the same thing with its policies and procedures.