There are new calls from Chinese-Canadian veterans for the provincial government to provide the new replacement Pattullo Bridge with a new name that departs from the existing name commemorating a former premier with a racist past.
Thomas Dufferin Pattullo was BC’s premier between 1933 and 1941, and is generally known for his social and economic measures of emerging the province out of the Great Depression.
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However, Pattullo is also on record for blocking Chinese-Canadians from joining Canada’s effort in the Second World War, over his concerns that these veterans could attain citizenship more easily in exchange for their service in the armed forces.
This was during a period when Canada, especially BC, practiced institutionalized racism against Chinese individuals. At the time, the Chinese Immigration Act of 1923 was in full effect, effectively banning nearly all types of Chinese immigration into Canada. Prior to 1923, a substantial Chinese head tax was enforced to control immigration. The 1923 act was abolished in 1947, but Chinese immigration remained intentionally limited until the 1960s.
“My position is that when the new bridge is built, it should bear a name that embraces the diversity and ethnicities that we have living in our community. We mustn’t forget about our history when discriminatory behaviours and bigotry were common practices, but there was during a different era,” King Wan, president of Chinese-Canadian Veterans Unit 280, and the president of the Chinese Canadian Military Museum, told Daily Hive Urbanized in an email.
“However, we should learn from it so that future generations would know of that sad chapter of our history. Yet we should not dwell on our past but use it as lessons learned.”
Pattullo also has several other locations named in his honour, including Mount Pattullo, the Pattullo Range in North Tweedsmuir Provincial Park, and Pattullo Park in Prince Rupert.
The Pattullo Bridge opened in 1937, and the toll on the bridge was removed in 1952. Construction on the new replacement bridge will begin in Fall 2020 for an opening in Fall 2023.
Early in 2020, the provincial government selected a joint partnership between Acciona Infrastructure Canada and Aecon Group to design and build the new bridge.
Wan suggested there is now an opportunity to name the new bridge after other prominent British Columbians and Canadians.
“Personally I do not have a preference [for a new name], but I feel that times have changed and our citizens should be given the opportunity to decide on an appropriate role model whose name can truly represent us,” continued Wan.
The new $1.4 billion replacement bridge, built just east of the existing crossing, will have four lanes — the same lane capacity as the existing bridge. But the bridge will have a slightly higher vehicle capacity due to its wider lanes and centre median concrete barrier allowing for faster driving speeds. There will also be some improvements to the existing road connections at both ends of the bridge in New Westminster and Surrey.
The existing bridge will be demolished shortly after the opening of the new replacement. A new bridge is required due to a range of major deficiencies of the existing bridge, including the rate of deterioration of the bridge deck, the high risk the structure could fail from a modestly-powerful seismic event and wind storm, and the potential for a structural collapse due to a ship strike of its piers.
The risk of a structural failure from an earthquake and wind storm is so severe that an investment was made to install an advance earthquake and wind warning system for the bridge early this year.
Daily traffic volumes on the new bridge are expected to reach 78,000 upon opening in 2023, up by 1% compared to the existing bridge’s previously peaked volumes of 77,000 daily. By 2045, traffic volumes will rise to 85,000 per day.