The pair of Colonization roads in town might be headed for a new name, and a discussion is set to take place at tonight's council meeting that could set the process in motion.
Stemming from a motion by Councillor Doug Judson, town council will be examining the possibility of renaming Colonization Road East and Colonization Road West in the town of Fort Frances. While a previous movement in 2017 to rename the roads ended with council deciding against it, a new council and decisions from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) and the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) prompted Judson to bring the issue back to the town.
“Fort Frances is a community in transition – socially, economically, and demographically,” Judson wrote in a press release announcing the resolution to council.
“We can take pride in our achievements while reconciling with our past. We also acknowledge that our future depends on being inclusive, and renewing the founding nation-to-nation relationship that made this community possible. Our discussion about Colonization Road is about more than a street sign. It is about the next step in our path forward. This resolution seeks to create space for a dialogue about the type of community we have been, but also the type we want to become.”
As part of the TRC's calls to action in order to address and advance reconciliation in Canada, the commission stated: “We call upon federal, provincial, territorial, and municipal governments to repudiate concepts used to justify European sovereignty over Indigenous peoples and lands, such as the Doctrine of Discovery and terra nullius, and to reform those laws, government policies, and litigation strategies that continue to rely on such concepts.”
Additionally, in May 2019 the OHRC wrote to municipalities in Ontario and noted that as a town is considered a service provider, it has obligations under the Human Rights Code, specifically to provide a service environment free of discrimination.
“Human rights law has found that images and words that degrade people because of their ancestry, race, colour and ethnic origin, among other grounds, violate the Code,” OHRC wrote in its letter.
“Derogatory images and words can have a significant impact on the ability of affected individuals and groups to participate and benefit equally in services such as participating as a member of a sports team or attending games as a spectator. There can also be broader social and psychological impacts on such individuals and groups, including how they are viewed and treated in their community.”
During council's last pass at the issue, it was determined that the cost on the town for replacing the Colonization Road signs around town, along with other fees relating to the name change, would be $2,669.51. A private citizen has since offered to cover that cost to the town should the name change be approved.
Should the discussion lead to the passing of Judson's resolution, an ad-hoc committee will be formed to handle the process of coming up with new names for the two roads, with their decision being delivered to council no later than April 30, 2021.
Judson will also be hosting an online panel ‘Colonization in Context’ on Wednesday evening from 6:30 p.m. until 8:00 p.m. the panel will discuss what colonization is, what impact it has on people who live in town and why the community’s commitment to reconciliation should include removing names like ‘colonization’ from local streets.
The full resolution can be viewed by the public at bit.ly/3le4bH2.
The online panel can be viewed on Judson’s Facebook page.