Canadian mountain (illustrative)
Canadian mountain (illustrative)Flash 90

British Columbia is considering whether to change the names of a mountain, creek and glacier in Canada’s Rocky Mountains that were named after the leader of Vichy France.

The BC Geographical Society has received a request to rescind the names of Mount Pétain, Pétain Glacier and Pétain Creek, which form the Pétain Basin, the Free Press reported.

The geographical formations sit on the border with Alberta, but are partly under the jurisdiction of the province of British Columbia.

The request was received last year from a “concerned citizen.”

In September 2019, Alberta removed the names from the basin on its side of the border.

Marshal Henri Phillipe Pétain was a World War I French general who went on to become the leader of the collaborationist Vichy regime in France during World War II that allied itself with Nazi Germany and the axis powers. Pétain put in place racial laws and oversaw the deportation of thousands of French Jews to concentration camps

After the war, he was sentenced to life in prison for his crimes and died in 1951.

The mountain was named after Pétain in 1918 by the Canadian government in honor of Pétain’s service as a general in World War I, during which he led the French army to victory in the nine-month long Battle of Verdun in 1916.

The Regional District of East Kootenay, where the site is located, voted at an October 8 meeting to support removing Pétain’s name from the mountain, glacier and creek on British Columbia provincial maps. The vote was 11-4, the Cranbrook Townsman reported.

Nico Slobinsky of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) told the Canadian Jewish News that he is shocked anyone would be against removing the name of a wartime leader convicted of collaborating with the Nazis from a landmark.

“Pétain belongs to the books of history, no other recognition should be bestowed on him,” Slobinsky said in an email statement.

The BC Geographical Society stated that it has to convene a consultation process before it can rescind the names of the formation, which will likely be finished by the end of the year. A second consultation period will be needed for renaming.

Name changes have safety and navigation implications so the process needs to be done in coordination with relevant agencies and parties, the agency said.

In a November 4 interview with the CBC, Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver CEO Ezra Shanken said it was “shocking” that several of the East Kootenay councillors spoke out against the name change.

“There’s clearly a population he’s speaking for that doesn’t understand that there’s no justification for war crimes,” Shanken said. “France itself said that his behaviour was beyond the pale, that it does wipe away all of the things he did before… There’s no grey area here.”