Sir John A. Macdonald Parkway to be changed to Indigenous name

The parkway was only named after Sir John A. Macdonald in 2012. Before that it was called the Ottawa River Parkway. (Jean Delisle/CBC - image credit)
The parkway was only named after Sir John A. Macdonald in 2012. Before that it was called the Ottawa River Parkway. (Jean Delisle/CBC - image credit)

The board of the National Capital Commission has voted to move ahead in the renaming of the Sir John A. Macdonald Parkway with an Indigenous name.

After the 2021 discovery of unmarked graves at a former residential school in British Columbia, three Ottawa city councillors called on the commission to change the name.

During his reign as Canada's first prime minister, Macdonald's government enforced policies that starved Indigenous people to force them from their land, and outlawed their ceremonies. It also centralized and expanded a residential school system that took generations of children from their families and tried to wipe out their cultures. That legacy was detailed during the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

A name change was also requested by Chief Dylan Whiteduck of Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg First Nation and the band council of the Algonquins of Pikwakanagan First Nation in 2021, while hundreds protested on the parkway the following year.

The move to rename the roadway received unanimous support from the NCC board Thursday, including a board member from Algonquin Anishinabeg Nation Tribal Council

"That's a very important area for the Algonquin people. The river that's there, the Ottawa River, and the other waterways nearby, that was our highways … one of the main ways we'd get together to gather and trade," said Norm Odjick during the meeting.

"So it's got a very significant cultural significance."

Name to be voted on in June

An advisory committee was struck last August to review the name of the parkway, and it's met twice to craft recommendations that were presented Thursday.

The board agreed the naming will happen in consultation with the Algonquin Nation in what is called an Indigenous naming and engagement exercise. That will involve working with elders and other members of the community on the name, beginning this winter.

Further workshops and public engagement activities will begin in the spring, with opportunities to exchange information and stories about the historic area.

Ben Andrews/CBC News
Ben Andrews/CBC News

"The importance of that process is really to understand the meaning of what that name will be, because the significance attached to a name is really important to understand," said the NCC's Véronique de Passillé.

"We want to be able to integrate what we learned from that engagement in future interpretation strategies that would take place in the park that has been created along the parkway."

The proposed name will be presented and voted on by the board in June, and an unveiling ceremony is planned for Sept. 30 to coincide with the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.