The mayor’s inner circle has voted to reject a proposal to rename a section of Abinojii Mikanah, formerly Bishop Grandin Boulevard, following fierce outcry from First Nation leadership.
It’s been nearly eight months since city council officially changed the name of Bishop Grandin Boulevard to Abinojii Mikanah. The new name means Children’s Road in Ojibway and Cree.
“It is very significant that after years and years and decades of being named Bishop Grandin, we’ve made the change to Abinooji Mikinah,” Winnipeg Mayor Scott Gillingham said Tuesday.
The road’s former namesake – Justin Grandin – was a Roman Catholic priest and bishop considered to be one of the architects of the residential school system.
The backlash was sparked when two councillors brought forward a motion earlier this month to change the name of a new section of the road stretching east of Lagimodiere Boulevard.
Councillors Russ Wyatt (Transcona) and Ross Eadie (Mynarski) asked the city to change the name to Edward Schreyer Parkway South. The councillors said it would honour Manitoba’s first NDP Premier who they said had done much work for the Indigenous community.
But Chief Angela Levasseur of Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation called the move offensive and triggering.
Speaking with the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs (AMC) Tuesday, Levasseur said under Edward Schreyer’s government, First Nation lands were destroyed by the implementation of Hydro dams which ruined the way of life for many First Nation people.
The proposed name change was also condemned as a ‘slap in the face’ to elders on the Welcoming Winnipeg Committee who had helped in the renaming to Abinojii Mikanah.
In a statement to CTV News, Wyatt said the new section of road in question is part of a Transcona corridor which was to be called Edward Schreyer Parkway. However, he said the new section was mistakenly named Bishop Grandin following its completion.
Wyatt said he had been calling for the name of this new section to be changed at the same time the rest of Bishop Grandin Boulevard was renamed.
“Long story short, the Mayor’s office should have taken my advice and coordinated both name changes together to avoid this unfortunate development,” Wyatt said, adding he strongly supports the naming of Abinojii Mikanah.
He said he would be reaching out to the AMC with a formal letter.
On Tuesday morning, the Executive Policy Committee (EPC) unanimously voted on a new motion to reject the proposed name change. Gillingham told reporters he wanted to send a clear message.
“We made the change in name as a matter of a step of reconciliation. We are serious about that and we stand by that name,” he said.
As a matter of procedure, Gillingham said the motion still needs to go to council for a final vote.
However, Levasseur said the EPC’s rejection of the motion is not enough.
“Even to apologize for making such a ridiculous proposition will not satisfy me, and I doubt it will satisfy my fellow chiefs and grand chiefs,” she said.
AMC Grand Chief Cathy Merrick did commend the Mayor and his executive policy committee for rejecting the name change.
“In doing so, they continue to remain on the right side of history – our history,” she said.
“But the situation serves as a reminder to all levels of government to work with First Nation leadership, to not make decisions on our behalf. Those days are over.”
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