Colonization vs Colonialization

Dear editor,

I recently read several of the many letters in your paper addressing the proposed renaming of Colonization Road. The underlying premise appears to assume a racial prejudice of the term. While I am writing to defend the name, in no way do I defend historical mistreatment of our First Nations population, such as smallpox in Hudson Bay blankets. My issue is that the ongoing narrative should recognize a distinction between ‘colonization’ and its subset, ‘colonialization’. While we can all recognize the pitfalls of colonialization, I suspect no one would strongly object to the proposed colonization of Mars.

Colonization Road West leads to McIrvine, a small colony on the western edge of the ‘Fort’. I know this road intimately well, having placed more footprints on it than perhaps anyone who can call the Fort their hometown. My Saturday paper route covered all of McIrvine, and in 1963 the Toronto Star identified mine as the largest such route in Ontario. Our family home, the first one on what is now River Road, sits at an obtuse angle and identifies the path of its original access from Colonization Rd. In the 1800s the property was called “twin oaks”, and my sister sent me a recent picture from under one of those magnificent oaks that towers over my river to this day. Next door was McIrvine’s most famous resident, ‘gramma McFayden’, who once placed Canada’s annual National Wreath to unknown soldiers in Normandy in recognition of her D-day sacrifice where she lost her husband and four sons. I remember her describing the day, late 1800’s, when as a child she watched two large war parties meet on the river to negotiate a peace treaty. The Ojibway Nation paddled downstream from the Falls, and the Sioux paddled upstream from the Plains. The native history of my native home is very rich indeed.

The main point of this letter is much simpler. McIrvine sits on a tract of land positioned between, not within, native soils. The upstream Ojibway were hunters, not agriculturists, and the Scottish colonists of McIrvine occupied the vacant downstream farmland. They neither invaded nor ‘colonialized’ a resident population. Thus, Colonization Road is an apt description of the access route to their colony, and it need not be interpreted as derogatory. That said, our history is in the past. A modern consensus peace treaty to rename this road would be an appropriate way to recognize the real transgressions of the past. I would be content to see it named McFayden Colony Rd., but I certainly would not object to a neutral solution such as Colony Road West.

Randy McKinnon
New Jersey

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