A point on a small island off Saturna is at the centre of an investigation to determine whether its name is derogatory — and local governments have been asked to chime in.
The Islands Trust — along with other local organizations and governing bodies, including several First Nations representatives — has been asked to comment on a request to rescind the name of Tumbo Island’s Savage Point, received by the BC Geographical Names Office (BCGNO).
“The request is to rescind the name, and does not include officially replacing it,” reads a letter from BCGNO provincial toponymist Trent Thomas, who also serves on the Geographical Names Board of Canada. “Consideration to rescind this official name is based on the offensive nature of the language in the name.”
Tumbo lies just north of the east end of Saturna Island — missing out on being the easternmost Gulf Island by some 500 metres — and Savage Point points northeast into the Strait of Georgia. According to BCGNO’s records, the name was first established on British Admiralty Charts in 1859, and officially adopted in 1945 — although the significance or origin of the name was not recorded.
The BCGNO said it is aware of the potential harms arising from derogatory language in geographical names and would like to determine if rescinding this name is supported by local communities and organizations or if there are any reasons it might be unfavourable.
Discussing the request Wednesday, Nov. 1, the Islands Trust Executive Committee expressed broad support of the recension, ultimately asking staff to respond via letter to advise the BCGNO they had no concerns, and to forward both the request and letter to Saturna Island’s Local Trust Committee for their information.
If rescinded, the online name records would be maintained with the history of this name having once been official, but the name would no longer be labelled on provincial maps and charts or distributed as an official place name in B.C.
“Until a broadly supported naming proposal is brought forward and officially adopted in accordance with the BC Geographical Naming Policy and Procedures, this place would not have an official name,” wrote Thomas, “and references to this feature would be by GPS coordinates or in relation to nearby named features.”