Colonization not just a word

Dear editor,

I am writing in response to your article summarizing the opinions of the residents of Colonization Road with respect to a proposed change of street name. The results suggest that many residents that responded to the survey stand against the proposed change as evidenced by the mostly anonymous submissions. The consensus seems to suggest that colonization is “just a word” and that changing the name would present some undue hardship to those that live on the street while serving no discernable purpose. These perspectives, while disappointing, are not surprising. The arguments against the name change are superficial and rely on an unexamined definition of colonization that sees it as an event involving, as noted by one survey respondent, the mass movement of people to a new location while maintaining connections to their place of origin. I would urge those that ascribe to this definition to look at colonization more closely and broaden their perspective beyond this surface level.

In reality, colonization is an insidious and ongoing process that asserts the dominance of the colonizers over those that originally inhabited the space on the basis of the presumed ideological superiority of White Western European Christian paternalism. Dominance is initially achieved through violence and coercion that seeks to eliminate the social systems and culture of the colonized and assimilate them into the colonizer’s culture. The dominant narrative is then perpetuated generation after generation by coopting social systems such as education and the economy in a way that privileges those of the dominant culture while marginalizing and rendering invisible those of difference. This process continues long after the relationship to the original colonizers has gone and eventually becomes part of the social fabric that informs the identities of citizens, the privileges they enjoy or are denied, their positionality, and how they experience their daily lives. The relationships formed by colonization continue to impact the world today and is directly connected to the many social problems that humanity faces.

This scathing criticism of colonization is not a matter of debate, but rather historical fact supported by evidence. Within our own context, examination of parliamentary records and legislation shows that the British and later Canadian Governments undertook deliberate actions to commit a cultural genocide against Indigenous Canadians in the form of Residential Schools and other acts designed to destroy the rich and vibrant cultures that existed here before Europeans. These atrocities were committed as part of the colonization of Canada and, although they cannot be changed, are not something of which to be proud. We must stand in judgement of our history or run the risk of repeating its mistakes. The very fact that we can debate the continued commemoration of what is an offensive concept stands as an example of privilege in action and a symbolic barrier to progress. Each of us needs to take the time to critically examine what colonization really looks like for everyone in society before we judge it a benign process of relocation worthy of being a street name. I again urge our council to move forward with changing the name of Colonization Road sooner rather than later.

Don Eldridge