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July 5, 2022 4:41 pm

British Columbia to Rename Geographical Sites Honoring Nazi Collaborator Pétain

avatar by Dion J. Pierre

Vichy France “Chief of State” Philippe Pétain meeting Nazi Germany Chancellor Adolf Hitler in Montoire after he surrendered more than half of France’s territory to The Third Reich. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Three geographic sites in British Columbia will no longer be named after Marshal Philippe Pétain, the notoriously antisemitic leader of France’s wartime collaborationist government created after the Nazi invasion.

The names of Mount Pétain, Pétain Creek, and Pétain Glacier were rescinded on June 29, according to a letter B.C. Provincial Toponymist Trent Thomas sent to B’nai Brith Canada and other advocacy groups.

“[Pétain] was recognized as a hero of the First World War for his role in the defense of Verdun. The creek and the glacier were subsequently named because of their association to the mountain,” Thomas wrote. “During the Second World War Pétain headed the Vichy Government, an ally of Nazi Germany that created many antisemitic and other racially-based polices.”

The late Calgary resident Geoffrey Taylor first petitioned to scrub Pétain’s name from the sites in 2016, the Calgary Herald reported Monday, an effort later taken up by his son Duncan. In November, B’nai Brith Canada joined a campaign urging the renaming of the sites, which sit near the B.C.–Alberta border.

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B’nai Brith Canada CEO Michael Mostyn said Tuesday the organization was “pleased that B.C. has taken the right steps on this issue.”

“There is no room for celebrating Nazi collaborators in Canada,” he added.

Marvin Rotrand, National Director of B’nai Brith’s League for Human Rights, argued “there is no heritage benefit to B.C. in maintaining the odious memory of Pétain on provincial landmarks,” noting that the Vichy leader deported 76,000 French Jews to Nazi concentration camps.

“Under his command France became a racist, xenophobic puppet ally of the Nazis,” Rotrand said. “We are delighted to see that all B.C. landmarks named after him have been rescinded.”

Several other groups also supported the decision, including the Regional District of East Kootenay, Columbia Valley Search and Rescue, Avalanche Canada, Association of Canadian Mountain Guides, and BC Mountaineering Club.

The provincial government official that said new names for the sites have not yet been chosen, and that references to them would temporarily use the names of nearby features or GPS coordinates.

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