Whitewater Region – Three roads in Whitewater Region will have their names changed, two because the current names are offensive, and the third because it’s a duplicate of another, not only within Renfrew County but within the township.
Chief Administrative Officer Robert Tremblay brought forward a proposed Road Naming Policy, as well as the proposal to change three road names to council at its meeting Wednesday, June 16. He said Cathy Phannenhour wrote a letter to the township stating Indian Road is an offensive name and she would like to be able to drive along Hwy. 17 and not see that word used as a road name.
In her letter, she suggested three other options – First Peoples Way, Nish Road or Annishanbee Road, “to keep it in the indigenous theme.”
“I am a 60’s Scoop survivor (stolen at birth and assimilated to white culture) and have studied the genocide of the First People,” Ms. Phannenhour explained in her letter.
Mr. Tremblay not only suggested council should change the name, but also brought forward a draft Road Naming Policy, since the township does not have one. He reviewed Renfrew County’s policy as well as other municipal policies and created one suitable to Whitewater Region.
The draft policy advises avoiding names that were appropriate at one time, but are not anymore, as well as avoiding duplicate names, even though one may be a street, another a lane, etc.
In reviewing the Indian Road name, Mr. Tremblay said it was “named in honour of a portage route” and in a reference to the history of the former Westmeath Township, a former Indian settlement.
“I’ve confirmed with the Algonquins (of Pikwakanagan) that the term (Indian) is no longer appropriate and we should consider renaming (that road),” he said.
While he understands that using Indigenous names “is not easy for people, they have to get used to the pronunciation,” there are other names within the township that are just as hard to pronounce, such as the recently named Bamagillia Street, which is named after a tree.
Mr. Tremblay suggested Indian Road be changed to Anishinaabe, which generally means first peoples.
As for Gypsy Lane, that too is considered insulting as it refers to a population found in Europe. Roma is the right word to use for all related groups, regardless of their country of origin, he said.
In reviewing options for the renaming, Mr. Tremblay suggested Rathwell Road, in honour of Don Rathwell, a former councillor, mayor and reeve in the former Ross Township and current Whitewater Region, as well as a former warden of Renfrew County. Since the Gilchrists live on this road, and have for many years, it makes sense to name it Gilchrist, but there is already a Gilchrist Road within the township, he explained.
As for Meadow Drive in Beachburg, Mr. Tremblay said there is a Meadow Street in Cobden, which is older than the name in Beachburg. Meadow Street runs from John Street and dead ends. It intersects Simpson, Crawford, Gould, Vankessel, and Creamery roads and contains 17 properties, including 16 homes. Meadow Drive in Beachburg runs from Lakeridge Trail to Robertson Drive. It does not intersect any other street and is more recent in terms of development. It contains 26 properties, including 20 homes and six vacant properties.
Most changes of address can be done online at no charge, Mr. Tremblay said. The township will not subsidize residents, property owners or businesses for costs incurred because of a renaming, but most banks, business services and government agencies will update an address in their records at no charge. There is no need to update any deeds of properties as a by-law will be passed when the name is to change and will be registered by the township with the Land Registry Office, he explained.
Councillor Charlene Jackson agreed the names should be changed. She suggested while the name Gilchrist is already taken, and the Gilchrist’s have owned property on this road since the 1960s, that possibly it could be named after one of the current or previous owners, such as Harold or Cecil or even adding a first and last name.
As for the name Rathwell, Coun. Jackson said there are other ways of honouring former council members, and there should be a list of them with their years of service “before we pick one name over another.”
Councillor Dave Mackay said while he is not “anti First Nation,” the residents of Indian Road have asked him if they could pick a name. This name was not chosen until after the International Plowing Match, which was in 1994 and was suggested by residents who live on the road. Since it was they who suggested the original name, Coun. Mackay said it would be nice if those people had an opportunity to rename the road.
Mr. Tremblay said that is acceptable, but “in keeping with the spirit,” of the area, it would be nice to keep it Indigenous.
Councillor Neil Nicholson agreed the new name for Indian Road should remain in the same spirit, but feedback from the residents affected by the new name should be allowed.
Councillor Chris Olmstead said he liked the idea of feedback from residents affected and was pleased the Algonquins of Pikwakanagan were contacted for their input.
However, Councillor Daryl McLaughlin asked Mr. Tremblay to do more research into the cost of changing the road name.
“It’s hard to imagine there isn’t a cost,” he said. “I agree the name needs to be changed. I just thought there would be a large cost to it.”
Mr. Tremblay said feedback and more research will be done before bringing the issue back to council for further discussion.
Conie Tabbert, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eganville Leader