Off the Record: Mountainous mistake

If this guy had his rankings stripped from him by France, I think Canada can strip his name from a mountain.

There’s a nearby mountain with a name that must be changed.

A Nazi-supporting, treasonous ally of the Second World War managed to snatch up one of our mountains with his rotten name. It may seem fictitious — here’s some background:

In the First World War, then-Marshal of France Philippe Pétain put in an impressive performance. And in 1918, he was honoured with his name becoming the title of a mountain here in Canada — on the border of B.C. and Alberta — surrounded by the height of the Rockies, and Elk Lakes, and Peter Lougheed Provincial Parks. I’d like to think that we can do better in naming our mountains, but I can respect an Allied war veteran earning such a title, even if he or she isn’t domestic.

But Philippe Pétain’s future became very sordid in the 1940s. He rose to legitimate political power during peacetime, but was appointed as France’s Prime Minister and Head of State during the years of Nazi occupation. He tore up his country’s constitution and assumed near absolute powers, often using his powers to collaborate with German Chancellor Adolf Hitler.

Philippe Pétain has never even climbed Mount Pétain. And because of his mountain, there’s even Pétain Glacier (located right beside Mount Joffre), as well as Pétain Basin, Pétain Creek, and Pétain Creek Falls.

Before we liberated our Ally in 1944, anti-Semitism was being practiced in France while the Axis army garrisoned the shorelines of the European mainland — all under Prime Minister Pétain’s watch.

And that whole time, his name has been representing a mountain ecosystem in our backyard. It’s been nearly a century now. He was tried after the war. Mr. Pétain was found guilty of treason and stripped of all ranks and honours. He was sentenced to death, but at 89 years old, pity was taken upon his decrepit health and he died naturally in jail in 1951. If this guy had his rankings stripped from him by France, I think Canada can strip his name from a mountain.

I inquired with an email to the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, but haven’t heard back so I’m not entirely sure how to go about renaming a mountain.

There are many Canadians who have achieved much more than a French war vet-turned-evil politician. One of them should have their name on a mountain.

Dan Walton is a reporter for The Valley Echo and can be reached at dan@invermerevalleyecho.com .

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