Trois-Rivières city council votes to change street named for alleged abuser to Atikamekw word

The city of Trois-Rivières is renaming one of its streets, after victims of an alleged abuser stepped forward, asking that Roger Garceau's name be stripped from the public record.

Trois-Rivières municipal councillor Mariannick Mercure read out a message in Atikamekw at a council meeting this week, as a sign of support for the people hoping to have the street name changed.

Mercure said she hopes the small gesture will help people in Manawan, an Atikamekw community north of Trois-Rivièresin their path to healing.

"I hope you are able to care for yourselves, and that this gesture, of erasing this man from our collective memory, brings you a small comfort in this storm you are weathering," she said.  

Vice-chief of the Manawan Band Council, Sibi Flamand, said this is welcome news before the holidays.

"People in the community feel relieved, but there is still work to do on our end," he said.

The new street name, Awacek, means 'little beings of light,' he explained, adding it was chosen by the alleged victims, to represent children.  

"I think this makes a new relationship with Atikamekw people and the city of Trois-Rivières," Flamand said. "This can work toward reconciliation."

Around 30 people in the Atikamekw community filed a class action lawsuit last summer against the federal government, stating Ottawa turned a blind eye to sexual abuse at an Indian day school in Manawan, where Roger Garceau was employed as a teacher in the 1970s.

Flamand said he hopes this will encourage people to be reflective and intentional when it comes to naming places after people, but he is glad city council was willing to listen and make the change.

Municipal councillor Pierre-Luc Fortin strongly supports the change, and said the people who live on the small street — in a new development in a residential area — have been notified.

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"We felt compassion about the situation," he said. "It was an emotional charge at the beginning, but we felt comfortable with changing it."

"It was important to hear them and to have [the alleged victims] know we received their proposition and our listening was open," he said. "We have to rebuild bridges with them."  

Garceau died in Trois-Rivières in 2005. The street was named for him after he served 18 years as regional director of a province-wide seniors federation.

The name change will take effect in the spring.