What's in a name? DND, Inuvik residents debate town road

An Inuvik road near the Dempster Highway and the Canadian Forces Terminal will soon have a name, but there's debate over what it should be.

The Department of National Defence recently submitted two different names to the Town of Inuvik to be considered.

The first choice is "Ethel Street," after Dene politician Ethel Blondin-Andrew, the very first Indigenous Canadian woman elected to parliament and an MP for the Western Arctic from 1988-2006.

The second choice is "Leona Street," for Leona Aglukkaq, who was born in Inuvik but lived most of her life in Nunavut. She's a former MP for Nunavut and was the federal minister of environment from 2013-2015.

"We're getting a lot of varied reactions. Some people, you know, [are] not happy with it. We've had a couple that are supportive. We've got some that suggested other names," said Grant Hood, senior administrative officer for the Town of Inuvik.

The road, which is near the Inuvik Mike Zubko Airport, currently has no name.

Hood said part of the town's policy when it comes to naming roads is to open it up for discussion to the public, and get feedback.

Mackenzie Scott/CBC News

The town posted the name suggestions on their Facebook page, and got plenty of input.

Many posted that they wanted the road to be named after someone who was raised in the community.

"The road names belong to the community and we have a policy on the road naming that there should be some sort of connection to this community," said Hood. "The two names that were put forward do have a connection."

"It's just maybe that people don't realize it.... It's up to the community to make the decision."

Inuvik resident Diane Baxter commented on the town's Facebook post, and over 40 people have used the platform to show support for her comment.

Lawrence Norbert

"My first thought was that we have a lot of people in the community that the road could be named after," Baxter said. "Why not name it after someone local, who was born and raised in the area?"

She threw out a handful of names including a Gwich'in resident Fred Albert, who served in the military, and Gwich'in pilot Fred Carmichael, an Inuvik resident and the first Indigenous person in the North to earn a pilot's license.

Baxter said it would also be great to recognize cross-country skiing Olympians like the Allen siblings — Roger, Anita, and Roseanne — or the Firth twins, Shirley and Sharon.

She said another comment mentioned Corporal Jordan Anderson, born in Iqaluit but raised in Pelly Bay, Tuktoykatuk and Inuvik. He was 25 when he was killed in Afghanistan in 2007 while serving in the Canadian Forces.

"His dad and mom have quite the connection. His dad was principal here for quite a number of years at SAMS [Sir Alexander Mackenzie School]," said Baxter "There's lots of options."

"It's time to start recognizing our local people that grew up and are from the area, and are Indigenous," she said. "It's a form of reconciliation as well."

Jessica Lamirande, a spokesperson for the Department of National Defence, wrote in an email that they chose the names "because of the individual's relation to northern Canada," but they look forward to seeing the results from the community engagement.

"We value the opinion of local residents as important stakeholders in this decision," wrote Lamirande.

Hood said that the defence department wants a name on the road, but have expressed that they are fine if it's not one of their suggested names.

Residents can submit feedback and suggestions to the town until Dec. 4.

Hood said they will narrow down a list of names and then allow the public to vote on what the name will be.