British Columbia
British Columbia iStock

B’nai Brith Canada praised the government of British Columbia for responding to their calls to rescind the names of three locations that honored Nazi collaborator Henri Philippe Pétain.

Marshal Pétain, who was the head of the French collaborationist government during the World War II Vichy era, had several geographic locations in the province named after him dating back to World War II when he was a French national hero for winning the Battle of Verdun.

B’nai Brith wrote to the province’s Geographical Names Office on November 13, requesting that it rename a mountain, glacier, and creek in Eastern B.C. that are named after Pétain.

On June 30, they received a reply indicating that the Mount Pétain, Pétain Creek and Pétain Glacier names would be rescinded.

The letter said: “Mount Pétain was established as an official name during the 1916 inter-provincial boundary survey to commemorate French general Henri Phillipe Pétain, who was recognized as a hero of the First World War for his role in the defence of Verdun (France). The creek and the glacier were subsequently named because of their association to the mountain. During the Second World War, Pétain headed the Vichy Government, an ally of Nazi Germany that created many antisemitic and other racially‐based policies. The place name records online will forever include the history of these names having once commemorated Pétain, but the names will no longer be labelled on provincial maps or distributed as an official place name in BC. ”

B’nai Brith applauded the decision by the Geographical Names Office.

“We are pleased that BC has taken the right steps on this issue,” B’nai Brith Canada CEO Michael Mostyn said. “This is an example of why B’nai Brith makes such strong efforts to fight for human rights. There is no room for celebrating Nazi collaborators in Canada.”

The call to remove Pétain’s name from BC geographic locations had been supporting by other groups, including the Regional District of East Kootenay, Columbia Valley Search and Rescue, Avalanche Canada, Association of Canadian Mountain Guides and BC Mountaineering Club.

“Pétain as leader of the collaborationist Vichy regime deported 76,000 Jews to Nazi concentration camps and under his command France became a racist, xenophobic puppet ally of the Nazis,” said Marvin Rotrand, national director of B’nai Brith’s League for Human Rights. “There is no heritage benefit to BC in maintaining the odious memory of Pétain on provincial landmarks, so we are delighted to see that all BC landmarks named after him have been rescinded.”

After the war, Pétain was tried and convicted of treason and found partly responsible for the deportation and murder of 76,000 Jews. He was originally sentenced to death, but, because of his age and World War I service, his sentence was commuted to life in prison. Pétain died on July 23, 1951 at the age of 95.