Emo councillors vote to change Colonization Road name

Natali Trivuncic
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Last Tuesday, Emo council unanimously decided to change the name of their Colonization Road.

Harold McQuaker, Mayor of Emo, said he thinks it was a good decision.

“We have many other First Nations communities that are in our district and in the surrounding area,” McQuaker said. “I think along with the other councillors that it was a good move by our community and that’s why we did it.”

McQuaker said there are some suggestions of names for the road but it is still being discussed. He adds that the sign will be changed fairly soon but probably not before the spring.

The news comes not long after councillors in Dryden also chose to rename Colonization Avenue and have begun to seek public input during the process.

Councillors in Fort Frances have been long debating the renaming of Colonization Road. In November they deferred a vote to allow more time for consultation and according Fort Frances Mayor June Caul, it will be at least another month before the issue is brought to council again.

Fort Frances recently put out a pamphlet in the tax bills with some information on the renaming of Colonization Road East and West.

“Though changing a road name does not erase history, it is a small first step forward in strengthening our relationships,” reads the pamphlet.

Caul said they wanted residents to have some input on the name change. The brochure asks for input from residents regarding any costs that may arise to property owners; potential address changes in addition to those outlined in the pamphlet; and other concerning impacts not related to address changes.

“I think the biggest concern for people is the amount of work it’s going to be for them,” Caul said. “I think for most it’s just the time that will be taken to change over 30 different forms of ID whether it’s bills, your licence, credit cards, health card, all kinds of things that people will have to change.”

Caul said she sees both sides of the debate and adds that renaming the road would not bother her but that she is only one person and cannot speak for others.

“We do know that the word itself has caused a lot of heartache and angst in people as they’ve been growing up through the times,” Caul said. “My personal feeling about the whole thing is we need to educate people on what has gone on in the past.”

Coun. Douglas Judson, who has been a vocal advocate for the renaming of the road said in an email that the recent news from Dryden shows that there is momentum across the region to make these efforts and be a good neighbour to Indigenous communities.

“The decision in Dryden is living proof that it is no longer debatable that ‘colonization’ is an inherently racist concept,” Judson said. “It will cast Fort Frances in bad light if we can’t take the same basic steps as our neighbours to be more inclusive and respectful of the harms colonization has caused to those who live here.”

Judson also praised Dryden councillors for positioning its efforts towards a reconciliation-focused dialogue from the beginning while the Fort Frances council he said has taken a more general policy-making approach to road naming.

“That has been productive, but shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that this is about reconciliation. I worry we are somewhat watering that down,” Judson said. “We should be more concerned about taking reconciliation seriously and leading that discussion than we are about appeasing those who refuse to acknowledge systemic racism in their midst.”

Judson said that reconciliation and efforts to address systemic racism have been on the back burner across Canada for decades and Fort Frances council has made the town’s relationship with Indigenous people a priority in their strategic plan. He adds that this is a test to whether the town means that or not.

Those who wish to express their opinions on the name change can email cvangel@fortfrances.ca. Residents have until March 10, to do so.