In 1959 I sat on a committee struck to study the relocation of St. Mary's Hospital from Pender Harbour to a more central location. We looked at three sites: the Porpoise Bay area of Sechelt, in Roberts Creek, and in the area of Brothers Park in Gibsons. Gibsons residents were very keen.
Clarence Joe, the elder statesman of the Sechelt Indian Band at the time, offered us some land on their property because Band members believed it was in their best interest to have the hospital close at hand.
He assured the skeptics that there were no strings attached then or in the future. It was a clear and simple gift. All they wanted was an appreciation plaque in the foyer. St. Mary's has a rich history.
The original hospital was built by Pender Harbour volunteers and owned and run by the Columbia Coast Mission (Anglican Church). It provided health care only, based on compassion and respect. When the government took over, that tradition continued. Education and religion played no part.
Since it was moved to Sechelt, the hospital has become a focus of pride in the community. Some 20 years ago, it was featured in Maclean's magazine as one of the best small hospitals in Canada. In over 50 years I'm unaware of any Aboriginal person being treated with anything but compassion and respect.
Now the Indian Band wants to change the name, ostensibly because of bad memories and to reflect their heritage. The residential school in Sechelt was not called St. Mary's. Erasing history has been shown to be immoral.
This issue has created a division in an otherwise harmonious community.
I suggest that the new wing be given a name suitable to the First Nations and the community at large - and keep St. Mary's Hospital.
Eric Paetkau, M.D., Sechelt
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