David Podmore, Chair
BC Pavilion Corporation Board of Directors (former Chair, Vancouver Convention Centre Expansion Project Ltd. Board of Directors)
I finally visited the Vancouver convention center and was pleased to notice on the promenade these capsules of British Columbia history featuring pioneers worth remembering in the labor movement, in forestry/mining/fisheries, in transportation, along with remarkable women, etc. I also appreciated the panels acknowledging certain bigotry mistakes of the past made on various Asian groups, for instance.
But perhaps it was not such a good idea to feature this eccentric millionaire Frenchman called Charles Bedaux, considering his zero contribution to British Columbia.Was it necessary to introduce us to a “Fascist” Frenchman that brought along his wife, his “mistress” and his “wine cellar” before undertaking a media blitz journey far beyond his abilities? Was it necessary to cover an expedition of “Citroens” traveling across our province to become stuck in a quagmire in the middle of nowhere, and then tell us about dropping these cars down a cliff in the absence of better film footage before finding out that the explosion triggered by the crazy guy started a forest fire? Was it necessary to tell us that he became a world war II criminal back in Europe and eventually committed suicide in order to avoid jury?
Perhaps it would have been more appropriate to cover the contribution of these six Voyageurs that guided Alexander Mackenzie to Bella Coola in 1793, or all those French Canadians that similarly help Simon Fraser and David Thompson navigate through. Or how about covering Soeur Joseph de la Providence that worked (sometimes as a carpenter!) on thirty hospitals, schools and orphanages in the North-West (including St-Paul’s Hospital on Burrard and St-Mary in New Westminster). Sister Joseph is already honored in Washington and Oregon. Or if the interest is for true Frenchmen that dreamt big, why not this Comte Robert de Garro having brought one of the first printing press in British Columbia to print its first ever newspapers in French and the first book ever published (in English)! The list of remarkable accomplishments goes on if one keeps looking beyound the blind spots of History written by the majority, with today’s treatment not any different by any means.
The world will be coming to Vancouver in February 2010 and many will walk this boardwalk and will wonder if the bigotry in regards to French is still going on under all the glitz and hype familiar to Bedaux. Many will wonder if people in British Columbia know their history and are prepared to recognize its key contributors. Please get this outrageous Bedaux panel replaced by something that truly honors the first French Canadians that came to our province. Featuring a sentence in French or perhaps a full panel would not hurt either…
The blog post (with content written in French): Featuring bigotry toward Frenchmen: perhaps it was not a good idea…
“What makes a Westerner? Our stubborn refusal to recognize the French fact.”
Sharon Butalah in “Lilac Moon”, 2005