Countdown to official Colonization Roads name change

By Merna Emara
Staff Writer

A few more address changes and Don Eldridge will no longer be living on a Colonization Road.

Eldridge, 48, a Colonization Road West resident is looking forward to having Sunset Drive be the new address label for his residence.

Eldridge has been a vocal supporter of the name change. He said having Colonization Roads does not speak to the future that Canada should strive for.

“It was just a sense of relief,” Eldridge said. “I think it was a sense of optimism in that it’s a very positive change. I think it speaks to a brighter future around Indigenous and non-Indigenous relations.”

Eldridge is a non-Indigenous person who began educating himself about colonization and what it means, beyond his perspective.

Depending on one’s perspective, Eldridge said, colonization has been often portrayed by those who have not been negatively affected by it as the benign process of people simply relocating from one place to another and making it their new home.

“But in reality, throughout the world, and certainly in the Canadian context, colonization was really quite a violent process that disrupted the lives, cultures and the languages of Indigenous people that have been here for millennia before Europeans arrived.”

Eldridge said while he is pleased with a new name that cannot be viewed as offensive, he is disappointed that town council did not act in favour of the name change in a speedy fashion.

“Town council had initially seemed to fluff it off as something that is important but we’ll deal with it when we’re not dealing with pandemic issues,” Eldridge said. “But I was glad to see that some on council continued to push that it was an important issue, that it’s not something that should be put to the back burner and buried in an administrative process until some committee makes a recommendation.”

Fort Frances Coun. Douglas Judson, who brought the name change to the table, said he was also disappointed with council’s approach to what he believed to be a positive step towards reconciliation.

In November 2020, Judson brought forward a proposal to form a committee to spearhead a process to rename Colonization Road.

He said the initial proposal would have had council lead a civic discussion on the importance of reconciliation and to situate our local history of colonization, with participation from Indigenous people.

But instead of embracing that recommendation and showing leadership, Judson said, council watered it down and led a months-long, race-baiting consultation process that gave a platform to racism and ugly things like residential school denialism.

“This approach re-victimized those directly impacted by colonization itself, and forced them to once again defend their humanity and the truth of their trauma,” he added.

Judson also said several people from the municipality were strongly opposed to the renaming of the roads from the onset.

Going forward, Judson said a lot of work needs to be done to understand the way in which racism has shaped its history. He said this could be achieved by addressing racism as a community and having a representative council.

“There is no reason why a community that consists of a third Indigenous of people cannot have Indigenous citizens on its municipal council,” Judson said. “I think that this entire saga was a lesson in the profound level of white fragility in this community, among those who hold economic and political power here. And other members of council, in my view, were far too concerned about doing their work.”

Judson said the name change is a milestone in a longer discussion about reconciliation and the role of colonization in our local history.

Eldridge also believes the name change is a largely symbolic one and that more actions have to follow in terms of people’s general day to day interactions, Indigenous representation in the community, academia and the government.

“This isn’t reconciliation by any stretch of the imagination. You’ll never necessarily win the hearts and minds of every individual. But collectively, we form the system. I think that it’s a symbolic change that the system is capable of changing. But there’s still a long way to go.”