White Rock council takes step back on Totem Plaza renaming

More consultation needed, mayor says

White Rock council has approved a motion to reconsider a resolution renaming Totem Plaza on East Beach for late Semiahmoo First Nation Grand Chief Bernard Robert Charles.

Council had originally adopted a resolution to rename the park at its July 8 meeting, but the motion for reconsideration was brought forward by Mayor Darryl Walker Monday night (July 23) under section 131 of the community charter.

Walker said that while it was not inconceivable that the plaza will eventually be renamed for Charles, “there are a number of interests and organizations that need the respect of knowing how this was named, including the Lions Club and the RCMP.”

Voting against reconsideration were Coun. David Chesney, and Coun. Helen Fathers – who had made the original renaming motion. They were among several councillors who argued that invoking section 131 was not necessary, as further consultation would have been in keeping with the original motion.

After the resolution passed, however, council unanimously endorsed Walker’s recommendation for a staff report to examine the history behind the naming of the Lions Lookout Park and Totem Plaza – with an eye to future options for naming the park and plaza.

Council also approved a friendly amendment from Coun. Anthony Manning that staff consult with SFN in advance of naming of other landmarks around town.

The renaming move had drawn a letter from former White Rock mayors Wayne Baldwin and Hardy Staub, who were also present for part of Monday night’s meeting.

In question-and-answer period, Staub urged council to reconsider the resolution, noting the history of the establishment of Totem Plaza – part of a project, ‘The Gift’ in which two totems were commissioned by the RCMP as a symbol of reconciliation with all B.C. First Nations – needed to be acknowledged in any action the city took.

Walker, Baldwin and Staub have all agreed, however, that Charles, who served as elected grand chief for 33 years, is deserving of city recognition. The Plaza was dedicated to Charles memory following his death in 2008.

“The desire for recognition for Grand Chief Bernard Charles is absolutely there,” Walker said last week.

“There’s no doubt about it. We just want to make sure that it’s right.”

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