Tŝilhqot’in chief thanks New West council for Begbie decision

The Tŝilhqot’in National Government announced Wednesday it fully supports New Westminster city council’s decision to remove the statue of Judge Matthew Begbie from its provincial courthouse.

On Monday, city council voted 4-2 in favour of removing the statue from in front of the provincial courthouse on Carnarvon Street. The city will also: engage in a conversation with the Tŝilhqot’in Nation about the history and legacy of Judge Begbie and the effects his decisions had on generations of their people; work with the city’s museum and archives, the community and the Tŝilhqot’in Nation to find an appropriate place for the statue; and engage in a process of consultation to find an appropriate place to tell the history of the Chilcotin War.

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“From the Tŝilhqot’in perspective, Judge Begbie represents a legacy of betrayal, pain and tragedy for our people,” said Chief Joe Alphonse, Tribal Chair, Tŝilhqot’in National Government, in a statement. “Removing Judge Begbie’s statue from public spaces does not remove him from history, but rather recognizes our history and our experience as Indigenous peoples. We are grateful for the leadership shown by the New Westminster City Council and for the understanding and compassion for our people that this decision reflects.”

In October 1864, Judge Begbie wrongfully convicted six Tŝilhqot’in War Chiefs of murder and sentenced them to death by hanging in one of the largest mass executions in Canadian history, according to the statement.

“Both provincial and federal governments have exonerated the six War Chiefs of any crime or wrong doing and recognized the six War Chiefs as heroes of the Tŝilhqot’in people,” said the statement. “The history here only sheds light to a negative relationship between First Nations and colonizers. Removing the statue of Judge Begbie allows for healing and reconciliation to take place for Tŝilhqot’in communities. Furthermore, it reflects an era of cultural understanding and appreciation for the Tŝilhqot’in and all Indigenous peoples.”

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