A process is now available to let Prince Edward Islanders propose new place names, as long as there's not a municipal council in place to handle such matters.
The public can also ask for a change to an existing name, have a name removed that's no longer in use, or ask for a change in spelling, according to a provincial government news release issued Friday afternoon.
The process applies only to unincorporated areas of the province, and not regions that fall under a municipal government with its own rules.
"Names are a very emotional topic that really have a lot of value to people," said Ryan Pineau, P.E.I.'s provincial tax commissioner, whose job includes being the province's representative on the Geographical Names Board of Canada, a national co-ordinating body.
He's been working on what the renaming process will involve since 2021.
Anyone proposing a new name must show they've done research and consulted with the community that will be affected, said Pineau.
A road bordered by forest and fields in East Point Island, P.E.I. A new program is available for Islanders to propose a name for a location, or to rename a location in Prince Edward Island. (Shane Hennessey/CBC)
"It can be something that residents really feel a connection to. So whenever there is going to be something like a name change, you want the community to be engaged on that to make sure that where the name lands is something that everyone can be proud of."
An advisory committee will help with more complicated name changes, Pineau said. Islanders can apply to join the naming advisory committee by visiting Engage PEI.
Until now, Prince Edward Island was the only province that did not have an official renaming program, Pineau said.
According to the province, proposals must also align with the guiding principles of the program:
Meaningful Indigenous involvement: The proposal demonstrates engagement with the Indigenous community throughout the renaming process;
Accessible and clear process: The renaming process is clearly communicated to the public with easy-to-understand language and using multiple platforms (public sessions, mainstream and social media);
Informative and transparent: Stakeholders have access to educational resources on toponyms and their importance;
Inclusive and respectful: The renaming process is designed with inclusiveness as a foundational element and incorporates feedback, follow-up communications and supports;
Mindful of creating a sense of belonging: Renaming process is sensitive to the understanding that place names are emotional and hold value and a sense of identity and belonging to community members; and
Consistency and alignment: The naming proposal and approval process aligns with the guidelines on renaming published by the Geographical Names Board of Canada.
The lack of a process arose as an issue in June 2022, when Abegweit First Nation Chief Junior Gould called on the province to rename Savage Harbour in light of what he called the "unacceptable" use of a word so hurtful to Indigenous peoples.
"We are not savages," Gould told dozens of people who had gathered at the reserve in Scotchfort for a news conference.
"Today I am formally calling on the premier and the province of P.E.I. to change the name and get rid of the word 'savage.' It is 2022. Islanders, as I've said before and I always say this, we can do better."