A Manitoba road that has been known for decades as Colonization Road has been renamed after a First Nations community and a rural municipality came together to give the road a new name, and remove the previous name which they said was so offensive to so many people.
On Monday afternoon representatives from the Brokenhead Ojibway Nation (BON) and the neighbouring rural municipality of St. Clements gathered for the official unveiling of the newly renamed Reconciliation Road.
The gravel road, which can be seen when travelling on Highway 59 in St. Clements near the community of Libau, had been named Colonization Road for many years, but about a year ago representatives from BON and St. Clements began discussions on how they could work together to get the name changed.
In a press release, BON Chief Deborah Smith said it was important to get the road’s name changed, and spoke about the many reminders of “With recent events happening around the world regarding systemic racism, people have started to speak out against and protest the continued display of colonial public symbols and monuments including offensive names that normalize colonization,” Smith said.
St. Clements Mayor Debbie Fiebelkorn said since those initial conversations both communities made it a priority to get the name changed and she said that through many of those conversations she now has a better grasp on why the name needed to be changed.
“It currently resonates with those who have been affected directly or indirectly by colonialism and are reminded by the display of colonial public names and the negative impact of colonization,” Fiebelkorn said.
To mark the renaming a permanent boulder and a plaque will also be placed at the southern junction of Reconciliation Road, at the corner of Highway 59.
St. Clements is not the only Manitoba community that has been working on changing the names of roads that signify colonialism.
Back in June, RM of Gimli Mayor Lynn Greenberg said that Gimli council was starting the process of exploring a name change for four streets named after colonization in the RM, including three right in the town of Gimli, but so far those names have not been changed.
An online petition also circulated in the Gimli area over the summer asking that the four street names be changed.
— Dave Baxter is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Winnipeg Sun. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.
Dave Baxter, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Sun