Policy with guidance to renaming places, buildings in Edmonton given initial approval
Edmonton’s Urban Planning Committee has given initial approval to a revised policy on naming buildings and places in the city, which includes rules around renaming them.
Recently, neighbourhoods and schools bearing names such as Grandin, Oliver and Knott have begun a process to adopt a new name. This follows the discovery of unmarked graves at former residential schools around the country and the darker side of the legacy those names represent.
Bishop Vital Grandin, for example, had a role in forming Canada’s residential school system.
“It’s not to condemn our ancestors for that, but it’s really to engage critically with it so we don’t repeat the past as well,” said Hunter Cardinal, a volunteer with the Uncover Oliver Initiative.
“It starts a conversation about what we care about the most and it also provides a moment to pause, reflect and see the diversity of peoples that we care about, that make up the communities.”
Cardinal, an Indigenous former Oliver resident, has been advocating for a change to the Oliver neighbourhood for years. Frank Oliver was a federal minister in the early 1900s who introduced restrictive immigration policies that targeted Black immigrants.
“At the time, Frank Oliver was celebrated as being a very tenacious businessman, he was the founder of the Edmonton Bulletin, which was huge in terms of having an English newspaper in western Canada,” said Cardinal.
“Unfortunately when we look at a lot of the policies he implemented… around when it is OK to displace Indigenous peoples that are living in proximity to a city, that’s when we start to see some pretty tragic impacts.”
The new policy around naming roads, areas and buildings highlights the importance of considering the Indigenous history of areas and the diverse, cultural makeup of communities.
“People need to know they can send that to the naming committee and they can look at it, and it’s not just dismissed,” said Coun. Bev Esslinger. “Other people don’t want the names changing, but they need to know that there’s a process that they too can speak to it.”
“We have to take everyone seriously and understand the rationale.”
The policy will not impact the ongoing discussions around the renaming of schools like Grandin and Oliver; that process is being handled by the school boards.
“This is not just a win for indigenous peoples and peoples who have been historically and are continuing to be marginalized, but this is really a win for all communities who call this place their home,” said Cardinal.
“This is about rediscovering who we are… we need a name that we can rally behind today, we need a name that reflects who we are and who we can be and that unification is so needed right now.”
Cardinal added that this is the “first step” of an ongoing journey around names and the impact they have on communities.
“That is the question and conversation that we need to be having… why are we naming things after people?” said Cardinal. “It may be a bit of a troubling conversation to have, in that we’re starting to reexamine those values that we perhaps may not have examined before.”
The policy change will go to city council for a full approval next week.
With files from CTV News Edmonton’s Jeremy Thompson
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