City council unanimously approves renaming Winnipeg’s Bishop Grandin Boulevard to Abinojii Mikanah

The name of Bishop Grandin Boulevard will change to Abinojii Mikanah after Winnipeg city council voted unanimously to approve the new name on Thursday.

North Kildonan Coun. Jeff Browaty voted with his colleagues in favour of the name change at Thursday’s council meeting, reversing his vote against the proposal at last week’s executive policy committee meeting.

At the time, he said changing the name would be “confusing, costly and potentially even dangerous” in cases where first responders are looking for addresses. He also raised concerns that some people might simply refuse to use the new name.

After voting to approve the new name on Thursday, Browaty said he stands by his earlier statements, but added “I didn’t want to re-debate it if nobody else had anything to add.”

The boulevard in south Winnipeg is among three roads or pathways named after Bishop Vital-Justin Grandin, who lobbied the federal government to fund the construction of residential schools in the 19th century.

Calls to rename the road have been building in the city in recent years, prompted by renewed outrage over the lasting harm caused by residential schools.

As part of coucil’s decision, Bishop Grandin Trail will also be renamed. It will be called Awasisak Mēskanow, which means “children’s road” in Cree. Abinojii Mikanah is the translation of that phrase in Ojibway. The new names are meant to represent residential school survivors and the journey to find the children who never returned home.

Councillors also approved renaming Grandin Street in St. Boniface to Taapweewin Way, meaning “truth” in Michif, the ancestral language of the Red River Métis. 

Speaking to reporters after the vote, Mayor Scott Gillingham said he was proud of the decision, noting many councillors heard from community members both in support and opposition to the name change.

“I think this … for many councillors is a step that is courageous,” he said. “We all recognize it’s important that we take matters of reconciliation very seriously, and we’ve done so.”

Councillors will now wait for a report from the public service laying out the costs associated with with the change. Gillingham did not know when that report would come, but said the name changes will likely not happen until next year.

Tartan Towing deal rejected

Councillors also voted nearly unanimously to reject a proposed settlement to avoid a lawsuit with Tartan Towing.

The company allegedly charged the city for $1.1 million in work that never happened. 

Last week, council’s executive policy committee voted 5-1 to reject a deal that would have seen Tartan pay the city $446,250 to settle the dispute, rather than going to court in an effort to recoup the full amount.

On Thursday, Mynarski Coun. Ross Eadie was the only councillor to vote against EPC’s recommendation to reject the deal. He suggested the city was responsible for making sure the work was being done properly.

“Ultimately [the public service says], ‘This is the potential of what the problem was.’ Here’s the settlement they presented, the recommendation, and … I think we should just simply settle it,” Eadie said during the council meeting.

The charges relate to contracts the city signed with Tartan to provide what are referred to as “courtesy tows” during residential snow clearing bans.

A sign says "Tartan Towing."
Mayor Scott Gillingham couldn’t say for certain whether the city will now take legal action against Tartan Towing, after council rejected a proposed settlement over invoices for towing that allegedly didn’t happen. (Tyson Koschik/CBC)

Winnipeg chief administrative officer Michael Jack told the executive committee last week the city wanted to maintain a relationship with Tartan, given it was often the only company to bid on city services.

Fort Rouge-East Fort Garry Coun. Sherri Rollins was the lone vote the committee in favour of the deal, but at Thursday’s council meeting she switched and voted to reject it. 

Rollins told CBC News she had “no comment” when asked why she changed her vote.

Gillingham said it’s up to the company or individual to explain why work wasn’t done.

“I think we should never lose sight of the basic principle that if Winnipeggers are paying for a service, they should expect to get the service,” he said.

The mayor couldn’t say for certain whether the city will now take legal action against Tartan Towing.

Portage Place plan moves forward

Councillors also approved a plan to give the real estate arm of True North Sports and Entertainment, the owner of the Winnipeg Jets and the city’s downtown arena, a chance to buy the downtown Portage Place shopping centre.

The company has a deal with Vancouver’s Peterson Group to obtain an option to purchase the 440,000-square-foot mall building and redevelop it into a mixed-use building.

Part of the conditions of the deal require True North to conduct community consultations about the redevelopment, and to keep the skywalks that connect the mall to the rest of downtown open from 7 a.m. to midnight.

Vehicles drive past a large urban shopping centre on a sunny day.
A final purchase proposal for the Portage Place mall will come before council later this year. (Chelsea Kemp/CBC)

Eadie cast the lone vote against the plan, saying he opposed selling the mall to a private developer. He wants the city, provincial and federal governments — all of which have a stake in the property — to consult with non-profit organizations to create affordable housing.

A final purchase proposal will come before council later this year.

City exploring 24/7 funding for public washrooms

The city will also look at funding 24-hour peer support services at the public washroom near Main Street and Higgins Avenue, following another vote at Thurday’s meeting.

A city report says providing around the clock support services at the public washroom, which is named Amoowigamig, would cost $650,000. Those services can include help with addictions, finding housing, and accessing resources.

City staff have called Amoowigamig “a tremendous success,” but demand has exceeded funding.

A stainless steel sink and a hand dryer are shown inside a washroom with bright yellow walls.
The public washroom facility on Main Street is currently open 10 hours a day. (Thomas Asselin/Radio-Canada)

Council voted Thursday to refer funding for 24/7 services at the washroom to the next four-year budget process, which will start later this year.

Currently the facility is open 10 hours a day. At a special budget meeting Wednesday, council approved a budget that includes money to avoid cutting the hours down to eight hours a day.

Council members also decided to cut the number of portable washrooms stationed around downtown from six to three.

The savings will be redirected to support the permanent washroom.