Skip to main content

Vancouver school named after 'hanging judge' gifted new name from Musqueam Nation


An elementary school in Vancouver is going by a new name after getting a gift from a B.C. First Nation Friday.

Sir Matthew Begbie Elementary now goes by the hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ name wək̓ʷan̓əs tə syaqʷəm, which in English means “the sun rising over the horizon,” according to statement the Vancouver School Board released after the renaming ceremony.

The name was selected in collaboration with the Musqueam Language and Culture Department and the district’s Indigenous Education Department, and reflects the school’s location in the city’s Hastings-Sunrise neighbourhood.

“Asking Musqueam to gift the school a hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ name is one way the district is showing its commitment to continuing our reconciliation journey,” VSB superintendent Helen McGregor said in the release. “It increases the knowledge, awareness, appreciation of and respect for Musqueam history, language, tradition, culture and contributions.”

The school was originally named after 19th century B.C. Chief Justice Sir Matthew Begbie, who earned the nickname of “hanging judge” by executing 22 Indigenous people, including six chiefs, over the course of his career.

Musqueam Chief Wayne Sparrow calls the renaming “an important step toward rights recognition, reconciliation and hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ revitalization.”

The new name also represents a new beginning for the school, which was originally constructed a century ago. From April 2020 to October 2022, the building was renovated into a two-storey, seismically safe school.

"It remains a priority of the Board to ensure all students attend seismically safe schools as quickly as possible," said VSB chair Victoria Jung.

The minister of education and child care is celebrating the fact that the school was built with sustainability and Canadian materials in mind.

“I’m proud of the investments our government has made to support families in Vancouver with safer learning environments,” said Rachna Singh. “It’s exciting that the new wək̓ʷan̓əs tə syaqʷəm school was built using mass timber which will help meet our government’s commitment to low carbon construction.”

The school also features open-learning spaces, a neighbourhood learning centre and a 110-piece rooftop solar panel.

Approximately 330 students enrolled in kindergarten through Grade 7 currently attend the school.

Click here to hear how Musqeuam elder Larry Grant pronounces wək̓ʷan̓əs tə syaqʷəm. Top Stories

Stay Connected