When I moved to Fort Frances in 2018, I was shocked that the first signpost to greet me was inscribed with the words “Colonization Road”.
Colonization is widely documented as a destructive force in the lives of Indigenous people across Canada, including those in the Rainy River District and across Treaty #3 territory. The report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada clearly links the aims of colonization with Canada’s former residential school system and other harmful policies which were designed to erase Indigenous people and their identities from this land. John A. MacDonald has since been immortalized on the ten dollar bill, and lauded for his efforts to “civilize” generations of people who were once keepers of the land. Land that had been stolen by men like him, with promises that were never fulfilled.
Colonization is not just viewed this way in Canada. Colonial ambitions have caused significant social upheaval and suffering in places around the world. Like the Indigenous communities in our region, those populations continue to live with the consequences of colonizing forces.
As I came to know Fort Frances, it was apparent to me that many people were working hard to make it a more inclusive and welcoming community. I was proud to support those efforts and join in where I was able. It is obvious that significant progress has indeed been made in recent years, but that there is still work ahead.
Colonization Road is on that to-do list, in both Dryden and Fort Frances. The citizens working to build these towns into more diverse, inclusive, and welcoming places should not have their efforts overshadowed by monuments to oppression and racism that greet visitors and new residents alike. These symbols and names are not just something to be offended by; they represent centuries of wrongs that have yet to be corrected, and trauma that can’t be undone with empty promises.
I encourage leaders in Fort Frances to come together in support of the efforts to rename Colonization Road.