Jody Vance: Barge Chilling Beach is whimsical, sure. But also shows that official signage can change very quickly, when wanted.
If you love it, that’s fine with me. But I don’t, and hope that’s fine with you.
Count me as one of the few who just don’t get the allure. It’s an unpleasant reminder of both past and future: it scared me, ramming into our beach during one of many extreme weather events; and a harbinger of storms to come.
So for me, there’s no need to see it up close, wear a t-shirt of it, or even want it even hanging around. But there is a silver lining around The Barge.
It provides yet another opportunity to learn just how tone deaf non-indigenous City officials can be.
There was such a blush of “yay!” when the Vancouver Park Board surprised citizens with a shiny new Barge Chilling Beach sign. That sign is now tagged by the traditional First Nations name of that space.
If a sign can be whipped up with zero red tape, why such a delay in creating traditional name signs all over the city at parks and places where wrongdoers have their names emblazoned in historic fashion?
Some see this as graffiti on this Barge sign, I see it as more of a statement of frustration. Those who tagged it are making a statement that deserves to be addressed. The want for representation of traditional and unceded territories is real – and yet the action taken to address it is slower than molasses.
This Middle is a call out for signs in our places and spaces to reflect Truth and Reconciliation as things are upgraded and changed. Claims of allyship can only go so far before the meaningful actions must become a big part of the awakening of Truth and Reconciliation.
It starts with the little things. A sign here, a changed name there. Cut the red tape like a hot knife through butter and let’s get this going. Let’s support the growth of reclaiming language and humble learning by those of us who know far too little about what atrocities befell First Nations and indigenous communities for centuries.
Think about how quickly that sign went up, we have the ability to do that. All we need is the will.
Think how it would feel to have streets in your neighbourhood named after men who murdered members of your family. That’s what we’re actually talking about here. And schools glossed over the truths, which allowed generations to have no idea what so many were suffering with.
When asked why context can’t be added to statues, spaces, or places, First Nations leaders are often told “these things take time.”
Barge Chilling Park is proof they really don’t.
Where there is will things change quickly. Sure, the sign is harmless fun and frivolity; something to make people laugh…but it’s also yet another painful reminder for many more that there is an incredibly long way to go to real change.
The Middle is that the box checking or ceremony of honouring Indigenous territories click over into prioritizing the meaningful and permanent action.
Let the Barge be hauled back out to sea. Fix up the sign to read: I7i’yelsn or ?éy’lxen and have it be known the lesson is learned.
Jody Vance is a born and raised Vancouverite who’s spent 30 years in both local and national media. The first woman in the history of Canadian TV to host her own sports show in primetime, since 2011 she’s been working in both TV and radio covering news and current affairs.