After Calgarian efforts, the Nazi collaborator’s name was removed from the Alberta-BC peak

Geoffrey Taylor began petitioning the Alberta government to remove Henri Philippe Petain’s name in 2016.

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Geoffrey Taylor’s success in having Henri Philippe Petain’s name crossed out from a mountain in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park left some unfinished business, his son said.

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So Calgarian Duncan Taylor took it upon himself to remove the name of the Vichy French leader who collaborated with the Nazis during World War II from the BC side of the peak and from other nearby features.

Late last month, he learned that his efforts had reached a climax with news from the British Columbia government that Pétain’s name would be removed from a mountain, a glacier and a stream in that province.

“Unfortunately, my dad passed away in 2020, so I tried to cross the finish line with the ball,” Taylor said.

“He would be happy that it’s finally done.”

The elder Taylor, an Edmonton infectious disease doctor, began petitioning the Alberta government to remove Petain’s name in 2016.

“My dad was a bit of a history buff and every time we would go hiking, he would talk about what or who gave these mountains their name,” Taylor said.

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“I said ‘if you’re going to complain, complain to someone who can do something about it.'”

The 3,183-meter peak is named after the French Field Marshal shortly after World War I in 1919 in honor of his victory at the 1916 Battle of Verdun.

Many other mountains within sight of Calgary were named around the same time after World War I battles and Allied military leaders or warships, including Mt. Hood, Mt. Foch, Mt. Evan-Thomas, and Mt. Blane.

But Petain’s perception took a dramatic turn during and after World War II when he led the Vichy French government that ruled the south of the country after the German conquest in 1940.

He was widely considered a Nazi collaborator who aided and abetted the Holocaust in the rear French state.

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After the war, a French court convicted him of treason, but due to his advanced age, the death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment.

“He even congratulated the Germans for killing Canadian soldiers after the Dieppe raid (1942),” Taylor said.

“There is no way a mountain in Canada should be named after him.”

The BC government also agreed and, effective June 29, rescinded the Petain name from the three geographic features.

Mount Petain in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park.
Mount Petain in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park. google maps

“Online place name registries will forever include the history of these names that once commemorated Pétain, but the names will no longer be labeled on provincial maps or distributed as an official place name in BC,” said the BC government place name, Trent Thomas, in a letter. to Taylor.

“Until such time as a widely supported naming proposal is submitted and officially adopted in accordance with policy, references to each of these features will likely be related to nearby named features or by GPS coordinates, as necessary.”

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The letter said that removing Petain’s name found agreement with a number of outdoor groups, including Avalanche Canada, the BC Mountaineering Club, the Alpine Club of Canada and several First Nations.

Some of those same groups will be consulted in choosing replacement names, Thomas said.

Taylor said the Alberta government has yet to change the name of its side of the peak.

He knows of no one else who has insisted on their rechristenings for nearly 80 years after the end of World War II.

There may not have been much awareness of Petain’s role during that war “or maybe no one cared as much as my dad did,” he said.

[email protected]

Twitter: @BillKaufmannjrn

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