Saskatoon to rename John A. Macdonald Road following unanimous vote by councillors

·2 min read
John A. Macdonald Road runs through Saskatoon's Confederation Park neighbourhood.  (Chanss Lagaden/CBC News - image credit)
John A. Macdonald Road runs through Saskatoon's Confederation Park neighbourhood. (Chanss Lagaden/CBC News - image credit)

Saskatoon city council voted unanimously Monday to rename John A. Macdonald Road as a way to acknowledge the ongoing harm in the community from the residential school system and the role Macdonald played in that.

"The generations of the future will look back on this decision and believe it is the right one," said Saskatoon Mayor Charlie Clark Monday during the council meeting.

Next steps include consulting with Indigenous community leaders, residential school survivors, Elders and knowledge keepers on the new name.

Ward 3 Coun. David Kirton, who initiated the motion, will also be going door-to-door to notify residents who live on the road of the name change.

"I'm asking residents of this road to open our hearts to our Indigenous neighbours. It's not everything we can do, but it's one thing," Kirton said.

City council also approved the development of a legacy review, which will look at the full spectrum of the city's "colonial past practices" that need to change.

Don Somers for CBC News
Don Somers for CBC News

Saskatoon Tribal Council Chief Mark Arcand, who spoke to city council prior to their vote, said a name change is a step toward reconciliation as the world continues to learn about the truth of residential schools.

"People that are 60, 70, 80 years old that are reliving the horror of residential schools; It's destroying people, it's destroying families and it's destroying partnerships and relationships and that has to change," Arcand said.

He added the name change is an opportunity to right the wrongs.

"At the end of the day we're all going to be better people for it, because we can take this opportunity to educate our city, our school systems, our families and our children."

The street, which runs through Saskatoon's Confederation Park neighbourhood, is named after Canada's first prime minister. Macdonald presided over the establishment of the residential school system, under which thousands of Indigenous children were forced from their homes and families and subjected to various forms of neglect and abuse.

The city has not determined what it will cost to change the name, but it will look at options to manage any costs of changing names and what tools could be used to facilitate a change.

Arcand said when he hears people discuss their concerns around the price tag, it's concerning.

"Residential schools have practically destroyed Indigenous people's lives, and I think it's kind of — I'm going to be frank and say it — it's a slap in the face when people talk about cost," he said.

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