Parks Canada moving past colonial narratives to paint larger picture of nation’s history

Fort Langley National Historic Site will not hold Brigade Days due to COVID-19 restrictions

To protect the safety of visitors and Parks Canada team members during the COVID-19 pandemic, Fort Langley National Historic Site (FLNHS) will not be holding its annual Brigade Days event over the BC Day Weekend in August.

Fort staff said they look forward to holding special events again when it is safe to do so.

The annual celebration typically includes specific demonstrations such as blacksmithing, while paddlers come ashore in dozens of York boat replicas to re-enact the fur brigades along the Fraser River.

FLNHS will continue to be open over the long weekend and visitors are welcome to enjoy the grounds of the Fort, enter into some of the historic buildings, and learn from costumed interpreters stationed at safely distanced locations.

While historical reenactments are on hold for the time being, a moment of reflection has presented itself for Parks Canada as colonial history has come increasingly under scrutiny and monuments commemorating historical figures have been vandalized across the United States, England, and Canada.

A large statue of James Douglas stands at the entrance of Langley’s Parks Canada attraction – the very place Douglas declared B.C. a Crown Colony.

November 19 is in fact declared Douglas Day, a time when the fort celebrates everything related to proclamation.

Kate Humble, National Historic Sites Manager for Coastal BC, told the Langley Advance Times Parks Canada is not aware of controversy around the statue of James Douglas at Fort Langley National Historic Site.

“James Douglas is a complex historical figure and while the statue reflects the period in time and the context in which it was designed and installed, interpretation of figures commemorated this way can and must evolve over time,” Humble said.

Born in 1803 in what was then British Guyana, Douglas was born to a Scottish merchant and a Creole woman who was of African and European background.

Douglas would find his way to Canada where was built a Hudson’s Bay Company outpost on Vancouver Island. He would be instrumental in the formation of the province – becoming the first Governor of the Colony of British Columbia.

Often referred to as the “Father of BC,” some of Douglas’s actions have been celebrated, such as his interracial relationship with Métis woman Amelia Connolly, while his autocratic governing methods and treatment of other Indigenous people have been called into question.

Humble explained that Parks Canada’s role as national storyteller comes with an obligation to provide a comprehensive overview of Canada’s history, recognizing that much of the country’s history has been told through a colonial lens.

“At Fort Langley National Historic Site, and Parks Canada places across the country, the agency is working to share more diverse and inclusive stories,” she assured.

READ MORE: Interpreters and historic building access offered again at Fort Langley National Historic Site

In 2019, Parks Canada collaboratively developed a large Metis exhibit on the upper floor of the Big House, highlighting the essential role Metis people have played in the Canadian fur trade and settlement of BC.

They also collaborated with the Canadian Guyanese Cultural Association of BC to highlight the multicultural aspect of James Douglas’ life.

“When presenting James Douglas, the agency no longer uses language such as ‘Father of BC’, understanding that what we call British Columbia today was shaped by many different people from Indigenous communities and leaders, to entrepreneurs, to Chinese gold miners, to Hawaiian labourers, and people searching for a better life, to name just a few,” Humble noted.

Parks Canada also added that they works with the Kwantlen First Nation to develop visitor programming related to Indigenous history.

For more information on Fort Langley National Historic Site, people can visit www.pc.gc.ca/en/lhn-nhs/bc/langley/index?utm_source=gmb&utm_medium=fortlangley.

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Is there more to this story?

Email: ryan.uytdewilligen@langleyadvancetimes.com

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