Right Relations Circle weights into Colonization debate

Dear editor,

The Right Relations Circle of the Rainy River District would like to weigh in on the “Colonization Road” discussion. Although our group believes that the issue has raised some questions, we have also learned much that is important to the final decision.
As to the process of changing a road name, it will not be costly for residents. Similarly, as other communities across Canada are updating these signs, there are checklists available online of what needs to be done. Ottawa is a good example. https://ottawa.ca/en/city-hall/public-engagement/projects/street-name-and-address-changes#change-address-checklist  Or, check out the Ontario government page at https://www.ontario. ca/page/change-address-drivers-licence-vehicle-permit-and-health-card#section-3 Furthermore, our own postal service can simplify the address-change process, and should residents need help with government forms, library staff are also available to help.
Most importantly, if we weren’t aware before, we now know with certainty that the name “Colonization Road” is offensive to many.  Colonialism is defined as a relationship between an indigenous majority and a minority of newcomers. The fundamental decisions affecting the lives of the colonized people are made and implemented by the colonial rulers in pursuit of interests that are often defined in a distant land. Not only is the definition itself patronizing, but we know that First Nations communities are still dealing with the results of their interaction with settlers, little of which was to their benefit.
The Truth & Reconciliation Commission’s 94 Calls to Action was published some time ago now. It recommended that Canada “integrate Indigenous history, heritage values, and memory practices into Canada’s national heritage and history”. Yet, should one look at the road signs in our local communities, almost all honour explorers and fur traders, settlers, or early residents, and just about all are of European descent.
Perhaps what we have before us is an opportunity. Not only can we remove a sign that is wrong on so many levels, but also replace it with a name that commemorates Canada’s first peoples. Surely this is long overdue. At the very least, something like “Reconciliation Road” would be more suitable, although it, too, is long and not easily spelled. Perhaps our First Nations neighbours can suggest an Anishinaabemowin word that would be meaningful to them.
We thank our mayor and council for bringing this matter to the table. They, more than any one person, are aware how this change will impact residents; however they are tasked with developing a vision for the future, which includes what is healthy to our community as a whole. Whether difficult or not, they must raise the questions that will define us going forward.
We anticipate further meaningful discussion on this matter.  To that end, we strongly encourage individuals to submit respectful letters to the Fort Frances Times editor, and to Emo and Fort Frances Town councils. Tell us why you are in support of this action, or why you are not.
The Right Relations Circle of the Rainy River District is an open community group committed to improving understanding and relationships between the diverse cultural groups in the Rainy River District (located in Treaty 3 Territory) through education, outreach, sharing and advocacy. Monthly meetings are typically held at the Fort Frances Museum (recently by Zoom). Facebook- Rainy River District Right Relations Circle.

Right Relations Circle