Final vote to rename Bishop Grandin Boulevard on horizon


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Bishop Grandin Boulevard is one step away from getting a new name.

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Bishop Grandin Boulevard is one step away from getting a new name.

On Monday, five of council’s six-member executive policy committee voted in favour of new monikers for Winnipeg routes named after Bishop Vital-Justin Grandin (1829-1902), due to concerns over his legacy as a key supporter of residential schools.

Bishop Grandin Boulevard may soon be known as Abinojii Mikanah.

Winnipeg Mayor Scott Gillingham supported the proposal, deeming it a “critical” step toward reconciliation. “Translated, Abinojii Mikanah means ‘children’s road’… (It’s) very meaningful and so I hope, ultimately, Winnipeggers make the effort quickly to learn Abinojii Mikanah.”

The report also calls for Grandin Street to become Taapweewin Way and Bishop Grandin Trail to be renamed Awasisak Meskanow.

Multiple members of the Indigenous community expressed support for the move.

“Bishop Grandin was one of the architects of the residential school (system). His philosophy was that we would hate ourselves so much by the time we graduated from these schools that we would feel humiliation when we were reminded that we are Aboriginal people. In doing so, he created a cultural genocide against our people,” elder Joan Winning told the city committee Monday.

Winning said the pain of that experience has carried through generations of families, and a new name would mark an essential step forward.

“At the end, what we are wanting to do is honour all the children, survivors that came before us, the children that never made it home.”

Couns. Sherri Rollins, Brian Mayes, John Orlikow and Janice Lukes joined the mayor to vote in favour of the changes.

However, one member rejected the idea, expressing concern renaming a busy boulevard could create confusion and safety concerns.

Coun. Jeff Browaty stressed he was proud to support the addition of a historical marker on the Bishop Grandin Greenway to educate Winnipeggers about the name’s history. However, he argued changing its name would have multiple unwanted side-effects.

“I will be voting in opposition to renaming Bishop Grandin Boulevard. Renaming a street name is confusing, costly and potentially even dangerous. Having multiple names for the same street makes giving directions difficult and there are considerable expenses in changing signage, and more, for private residents and businesses with addresses on it. When emergency services are involved, it could be a matter of life and death,” said Browaty.

The city councillor noted he previously supported the name change before changing his opinion.

“I think the last thing we all want — and the most disrespectful thing that could occur — is a formal renaming and the new name not being used, which I believe here is a possibility. I’ve heard from a lot of residents who oppose this change. Besides the obvious costs of renaming roadways, like street signage, there are costs associated with businesses that will have to be changing stationary signage and advertising. Again, this isn’t a decision I take lightly,” said Browaty.

Gillingham responded by saying the effort is worthwhile, even if it takes some Winnipeggers years to adjust to it.

A city report on the potential renaming does not provide a cost estimate to implement it, noting it has yet to be determined.

The proposed changes are part of the city’s Welcoming Winnipeg: Reconciling Our History process, with the new names meant to honour Indigenous experience, culture and history. It also aims to replace designations for streets, places and buildings in the city considered offensive to members of that community.

Reanna Merasty, Welcoming Winnipeg chairwoman, said renaming the boulevard is a longstanding request of the Indigenous community.

“(Indigenous people) should be able to walk about the city, see ourselves in the history and language being presented and feel a sense of belonging in the city of Winnipeg,” Merasty told EPC.

The matter still requires a final council vote.

Twitter: @joyanne_pursaga

Joyanne Pursaga

Joyanne Pursaga

Born and raised in Winnipeg, Joyanne loves to tell the stories of this city, especially when politics is involved. Joyanne became the city hall reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press in early 2020.

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