Where will Begbie go?

Details still have to be worked out on when the Judge Begbie statue will be removed from New Westminster's Begbie Square and where it will go.

On May 6, city council voted 4-2 in favour of removing the Judge Begbie statue from in front of the provincial courthouse on Carnarvon Street.

“We will wait for information from staff about the process of removal,” Coun. Nadine Nakagawa said in an email to the Record. “I don’t know the logistics associated with moving and storing a statue.”

As per the motion approved by council, the city will also: engage in a conversation with the TsÌ‚ilhqot’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 TsÌ‚ilhqot’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.

Nakagawa, who put forward the motion, said the city needs to respond to a request by the TsÌ‚ilhqot’in chiefs in 2017 to remove all namesakes of Judge Matthew Baillie Begbie, who was the first chief justice of the Colony of British Columbia.

In 1864, Begbie presided over a murder trial in Quesnel of five TsÌ‚ilhqot’in chiefs who were found guilty and sentenced to hang. The following year, a sixth chief, Chief Ahan, was tried, convicted and sentenced to death in New Westminster – in a spot not far from where the statue stands.

In 2014, the provincial government apologized to the TsÌ‚ilhqot’in Nation for the wrongful execution of the six chiefs. In 2018, the federal government fully exonerated the chiefs of any wrongdoing.

The TsÌ‚ilhqot’in National Government has commended city council’s decision to remove the statue from in front of the courthouse, saying it represents a legacy of pain and tragedy that’s still felt to this day.

— By Theresa McManus / New West Record

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