The names of the monuments of Bedaux could be deleted due to Nazi links

Mount Bedaux and the Bedaux Pass in northeastern British Columbia may soon see their names removed from the map due to concerns about local monuments commemorating an accused war criminal.

Both sites are located at the source of the Muskwa River in Kwadacha Wilderness Provincial Park and are named after Franco-American industrialist Charles Bedaux, who in 1934 led an infamous subarctic expedition through the region.

Bedaux, however, was later arrested for treason by the United States during World War II, accused of aligning his business and conspiratorial interests with Nazi Germany and Nazi-occupied France. He committed suicide in 1944 in a Florida prison while awaiting trial.

The BC Geographical Names Office is now considering revoking the names of both sites following a request from a resident of British Columbia who considers them inappropriate, and is seeking comments from the Peace River Regional District, communities of the First Nations and mountain clubs.

“Before making any naming decision, it is important to determine whether the decision would support or conflict with the heritage values ​​of the area,” provincial toponymist Carla Jack wrote in a Nov. 4 letter to PRRD. “The request currently under consideration is to cancel both names and does not include name replacement at this time.”

Bedaux is important to the history of the region, having arrived from Edmonton in the summer of 1934 and employing many well-known pioneer cowboys and packers on his so-called “Champagne Safari” to open a route from Fort St. John at Telegraph Creek.

More than 100 people took part in the trip, including a film crew, documenting the Citroën half-track convoy through the rugged and unexplored terrain of the north. Bedaux’s quest was ultimately unsuccessful, as the expedition abandoned its efforts later that fall due to bad weather and poor planning.

The names of Mount Bedaux and Col Bedaux were first recorded by British Columbia land surveyor Frank Swannell, who was appointed by the government to accompany the expedition. Col de Bedaux was officially adopted as a place name on November 30, 1944 and Mont Bedaux on April 7, 1949.

“The Bedaux expedition of 1934 made its leader one of the most flamboyant explorers in Canadian history: champagne, caviar, mistress and maid; over-equipped, ill-equipped and strewn with staged incidents, directed by Hollywood cinematographer Floyd Crosby, ”reads the BC Geographical Names website. “Bedaux was convinced his group could pinpoint a route and drive a fleet of cars from Edmonton through the unmapped north of the Rocky Mountain Divide, from there through Telegraph Creek to Alaska, a distance of 2,400 km. . ”

Fort St. John North Peace Museum curator Heather Sjoblom says the expedition has always contributed to the region’s history despite the failure of Bedaux’s expedition and its subsequent ties to the Nazis and the powers of the Axis during World War II. The expedition took place before the monumental Alaska Highway construction undertaking in 1942.

“He’s really made a difference in this area, but maybe in some ways it would be better to name them after someone from around the corner who is potentially more worthy,” Sjoblom said. “Charles Bedaux’s expedition here in 1934 drew a ton of attention to the area and really made a difference for the average people who lived here in the midst of the Great Depression, who were struggling to get out of it. ”

If Bedaux’s name is removed from landmarks, they will no longer be labeled on maps of British Columbia or distributed as an official place name in the province, Jack noted in his letter to PRRD. However, the provincial records would “forever include the history” they once commemorated him, Jack noted.

“Until a widely supported naming proposal is presented and officially adopted,” wrote Jack, “references to each of these features will likely be in relation to features named nearby or by GPS coordinates, depending on needs.”

The BC Geographical Names website notes that the Sekani name for Bedaux Pass is Dawunèska, with the origin and meaning of the name currently unknown.

The regional district council meets on Thursday.

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