New Brunswick won't take position on Confederation Bridge renaming

·2 min read
Every Prince Edward Island MLA voted for a motion to ask the federal government to rename Confederation Bridge. (Jane Robertson/CBC - image credit)
Every Prince Edward Island MLA voted for a motion to ask the federal government to rename Confederation Bridge. (Jane Robertson/CBC - image credit)

New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs is not weighing in on Prince Edward Island's call to rename Confederation Bridge.

The bridge linking P.E.I with New Brunswick was built in the 1990s, and the federal government chose the name.

Last week, the P.E.I. legislature unanimously voted to ask the federal government to change the name of the bridge to Epekwitk, which is the original name given by the Mi'kmaq for the land now known as Prince Edward Island.

Higgs has no comment on the matter, a government spokesperson told CBC News.

"This is not a provincial decision, and so the Premier is not going to weigh in on the subject at this time," Nicolle Carlin, the deputy minister of communications, said in an email Tuesday.

P.E.I. Sen. Brian Francis has said the Island is recognized a as the birthplace of Canadian Confederation, but not many people acknowledge that Confederation "came at a great cost to Indigenous people."

"From 1867 onwards, we became the target of violent process of dispossession, displacement, exploitation and elimination, which continues to impact our lives today," he said.

Green Party Leader David Coon congratulated P.E.I on the move to get the bridge name changed and he called Higgs's silence on the issue "cowardly."

"It should be a no-brainer, it should be a slam dunk," Coon said Tuesday.

"The entire legislative assembly of P.E.I. is recommending this to the federal government. Why wouldn't the New Brunswick government cheer them on?"

N.B. map has no shortage of name issues

Coon said there are place names in this province that beg for the same treatment as the Confederation Bridge.

Wolastoqiyik in the province have been calling for years to rename the St. John River to Wolastoq.

Wolastoq means "beautiful and bountiful river," and Wolastoqiyik are "people of the beautiful and bountiful river.

Wolastoqiyik have said that restoring the original name of the river is important to the community's identity and would be a step forward in reconciliation.

New Brunswick also has the highest number of place names that include the offensive term "sq--w" of all the provinces and territories in Canada — seven in total. Its origin is the Algonquian word for young woman, but it developed racist and misogynistic connotations after the arrival of European colonists.

Community members have been working on getting the province to change those names.

Tourism, Heritage, and Culture Minister Tammy Scott-Wallace, said earlier that the process of changing those names is complicated and requires consultation with "multiple communities and sometimes other jurisdictions."

Coon said these two issues could be resolved quickly if there were a will.

"It's really discouraging that the premier has moved so slowly on that," Coon said.

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