THE idea to install a marker to explain the controversy behind the name of a popular St. Vital trail has attracted mixed reviews.
Coun. Brian Mayes (St. Vital) is calling for a committee of community members to consider erecting a plaque or historical marker at the entrance of the Bishop Grandin Greenway at Bishop Grandin Boulevard at River Road.
Bishop Vital-Justin Grandin, a Roman Catholic priest and bishop, served before and after Confederation in 1867, and was an early supporter of the Indian residential school system. That history has sparked calls to change the name since 2018.
"Let’s add a second marker. Let’s not rename it. Let’s learn from history, let’s not try to erase it," said Mayes.
The committee, which is part of the Welcoming Winnipeg: Reconciling our History policy, is tasked with making recommendations to council on requests to remove, replace or add written context to the names on city-owned plaques, statues, murals, parks, buildings, trails and bridges.
Mayes said he hopes adding information will better reflect the name’s history and significance, while the process will offer a chance to seek Indigenous input before a decision is made.
David Chartrand, president of the Manitoba Métis Federation, said he agrees more education is warranted.
"People in the Indigenous world know Bishop Grandin and know the damage he did on policy because he (saw) us as a lesser people," said Chartrand.
Residential schools were condemned by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which found the way children were taken from their families amounted to a "cultural genocide."
Chartrand said Winnipeg must find a way to acknowledge that impact to help all residents better understand, and learn from, their own history.
"That name has existed for quite a number of years now, on Bishop Grandin, the street. I think the name should stay. Let the stain remain, in my view, but let’s educate people why the name is there," he said.
Another Indigenous leader said he’d like the city to instead give the site a new name.
"I think that the history of residential schools and how prominent it was and how destructive it was on our communities, obviously that would be a very contentious issue for anyone. I’d prefer if we renamed it something else," said Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs Grand Chief Arlen Dumas.
Dumas said he believes a new name could help improve relations between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Winnipeggers.
"I think residential schools have been one of the worst atrocities committed on our communities. I think the impacts of residential schools will reverberate for generations to come and we need to think of ways to bring about healing. I think that championing somebody by acknowledging them and naming vital infrastructure after them is counter to reconciliation," he said.
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.