The Holborn Group’s refusal to excise the Trump name from their Georgia Street project is an insult to all residents of Vancouver.
Regardless of whether it is private property, that there are contracts or operating agreements in place, Holborn is morally and ethically wrong to continue to promote the name of someone who is openly racist and who has stepped far beyond basic human decency.
Maybe the Holborn Group’s owners are naive and ignorant of their adopted city and country’s recent history. Internment camps experienced by Japanese Canadians are not some crazy and misplaced political statements but a reality still in recent memory. Immigration restrictions and the denial of basic rights for the Chinese, Sikhs and many other groups, let alone the treatment of First Nations is a hateful legacy we still live with today. Thankfully, we as a city and country are working to right the wrongs of the past.
In 2010, the federal government forgot to do some basic research before they named a new downtown office building after the MP Howard C. Green, one of the loudest voices for the expulsion of the Japanese from the Pacific Coast. Reaction was swift and loud, his name was removed from the building in short order.
In Nova Scotia, the Rename Cornwallis initiative has been pushing to have Lord Cornwallis’ name removed from streets, parks and buildings because of his ‘scalping’ proclamation of 1749 that put a bounty on the heads of Mi’kmaq men, women, and children in an attempt to eradicate an entire group of people. The campaign is seeing results with the premier of the province stepping up to call for removal of the Cornwallis name from a variety of places of honor. Cornwallis shouldn’t be removed from the history books but he doesn’t deserve the honors given to him.
Cornwallis and Green are two good examples of figures whose actions are repellent and don’t deserve public commemoration and there are many others. However, a lot of public figures from the past when viewed from today’s perspective seem offensive but were not out of line in their thinking with their contemporaries. Some have their names attached to something in the public realm and for the most part those names will stay in place.
Where a difference can be made is in choosing names now that reflect the multi-cultural city we live in. The new library on East Hastings is nə́c̓aʔmat ct Strathcona branch meaning ‘we are one’ in the Musqueam language. Lanes in the West End will eventually have names that honor women, aids activists and the shared history of the Squamish and Hawaiian peoples, and an important part of Black history is celebrated in the newly named Pullman Porter street in Southeast False Creek.
The Trump name as a luxury brand cannot be separated from the person. It now represents a racist and dangerous agenda promoted by Donald J. Trump; everything the modern Vancouver and Canada stand against. And now with the arrival of Syrian refugees in Canada the Holborn Group’s decision is all the more disappointing and, I think, cowardly.
Others have shown more backbone, Damac, the Dubai developer has tossed the name from its project, and in Turkey the franchise operator has openly criticized Trump and is considering his options for removing the Trump name from his property.
If a person is insulted, injured or, god forbid, killed because of their dress or faith as a result of Trump’s words then the Holborn Group by refusing to dump Trump has given their tacit approval of those actions.
It ain’t luxury any more.