Colonization Road change approved

By Merna Emara
Staff Writer

Fort Frances town council unanimously voted on Monday to approve the recommendation to rename Colonization Road East and Colonization Road West. Along with the approval to rename both Colonization Roads, an education resolution was also carried.

The renaming recommendation was put forward at the last Planning and Development Executive Committee meeting.

Addressing the need to change the name of Colonization Roads surfaced in late October when Coun. Douglas Judson brought it to council. Since then, the town has introduced a naming and renaming policy – a step Fort Frances Mayor June Caul said had to be taken in order to set a precedent for making decisions pertaining to road names in the future.

Caul said although she believes that changing the name of Colonization Roads is the right decision to make because of the history, she will not apologize for the time taken in order to make sure everyone has been given a voice before a decision on any issue is made.

“Knowing that we cannot please both sides, but doing what we feel is fair and just for our residents, and especially for our neighbours to move on from this issue,” Caul said. “That is what council must always do. Listen to all sides respectfully before a decision on any issue is made.”

Coun. Mike Behan was also in full support of the renaming recommendation, but said he did not agree with how this issue was presented and framed when it was first brought forward to council.

“I had questioned the timing and what I perceived as an undue urgency that had been arbitrarily placed on it, particularly given all the other pressing issues council have been grappling with over the past several months, including the pandemic,” Behan said.

“I believe I was one of the first if not the first, at least locally, to take a very public and clear stance on this issue. Back when I was editor of the Fort Frances Times I wrote an editorial appearing in the Feb. 22, 2017 edition headlined ‘Just a Thought.’ It called on council to consider renaming Colonization Road East and West.”

Still concerned about the timing, Behan said he would like the name change not to take effect until at least Jan. 1, 2022.

Along with the name changes, two resolutions were proposed to council. The first resolution was brought forward by Judson. He proposed that at least one name of the new roads reflect Indigenous history, culture, or language or reconciliation.

The other resolution was an educational aspect, a plaque for example, about the road and the history. This was presented by Coun. John McTaggart.

McTaggart said the name change should be coupled with an educational component to tell residents why this change was a long time coming.

“We as community leaders can make the decision to change the street name,” McTaggart said. “If that’s all we do, we have done a disservice by not following through on trying to promote and educate why we changed the name. Let us not hide our history or disguise it, let us learn from it and do better going forward.”

While all councillors voted for an educational component to the name change, none voted for Judson’s proposal.

This marks the beginning of the 30-day consultation in which members of the public are encouraged to submit name recommendations to council.

The town will hold a public meeting on April 26, in order for residents to provide input as well as propose a street name.