During a recent appearance at a federal committee, British Columbia NDP MP Bonita Zarrillo lobbed negative insinuations about local historical figure Father Edmond Maillard in order to get him cancelled, saying it would be “unconscionable” to include Maillard’s name in the title of a new electoral riding.
Maillardville, a historically French-Canadian neighbourhood in Coquitlam, BC, may be included as part of a new “Burnaby–New Westminster–Maillardville” riding that the federal electoral districts commission is proposing.
The community is named after Edmond Maillard, a French oblate who served as a pastor in Coquitlam for two years, from 1909 to 1911.
“I just wanted to note that the commission has suggested that there should be the naming of Maillardville in a new riding,” Zarrillo began.
“Father Maillard was an oblate, he is the founding father of Maillardville, but to perpetuate this name, and to elevate this name in a new riding in 2023 when he was also a principal of a residential school in northern BC seems unconscionable at this point in time.”
“We’ve also learned a lot in the journey since the discovery of the 2,015 [sic] children,” said Zarrillo in reference to the inaccurate narrative that 215 “unmarked graves” (soil disturbances) were found on residential school grounds in Kamloops, BC in 2021.
To some ideologically-invested stakeholders, the soil disturbances picked up by ground-penetrating radar represent unmarked graves of youth who died while attending indigenous residential schools. No excavations have been performed in Kamloops, so there is no way to know whether the soil disturbances actually indicate a burial, nevermind the burial of children.
“We need to be careful not to take for granted that if [Maillard] was a religious Father that he would automatically be a person of concern in the school system,” Joanne Dumas, Executive and Artistic Director of the Société francophone de Maillardville, told True North.
“I have never heard in 27 years of working in Maillardville any comments to that. Also I have met three of his former students from France who have said he was a kind and great teacher.”
Maillard was principal of the Sechelt, BC residential school from 1930–1934, and principal of the St. Joseph’s Mission School in northern BC for at least fourteen years prior to that. He spent the rest of his life in France.
“Whereas years ago it was difficult to get the Indians to send their children to the mission, today they are eager to send them and the mission is quite full up,” reads a 1925 newspaper article in The Province about Maillard’s northern BC school, supplied to True North by the Coquitlam Heritage Society. The article described Maillard’s school as clean, modernized, and complete with its own electric light plant, vegetable garden, and dairy farm.
Joanne Dumas of the Société francophone de Maillardville also told True North, “Again I am not religious in any way but do not believe that people of the clergy are all guilty by association of reprehensible actions. Should we have to remove the names of all religious or community workers on buildings or cities we will have major work ahead and no history for future generations.”
“Decisions should be based on facts,” Dumas stated.
Bonita Zarrillo did not reply to True North’s request for comment.
Last year, Zarrillo suggested that ice hockey arenas should be banned due to the “climate impact of human-made indoor ice.”