City council has axed the idea to rename a new section of the former Bishop Grandin Boulevard to something other than Abinojii Mikanah. Despite a unanimous vote, there was still debate over the matter, with one city councillor responding to criticism of the idea saying he is not the “typical white guy.”
The name change was first brought up earlier this month by Councillors Russ Wyatt (Transcona) and Ross Eadie (Mynarksi). They called for the newest section of the former Bishop Grandin Boulevard, which stretches east past Lagimodiere, to be renamed Edward Schreyer Parkway South.
The name, they said, would honour former Manitoba Premier Edward Schreyer.
This came despite a move from council nearly eight months ago officially renaming the entire stretch of Bishop Grandin Boulevard to Abinojii Mikanah.
The new name means ‘Children’s Way’ in Ojibway and honours survivors of the residential school system, of which Roman Catholic Bishop Justin Grandin was considered an architect.
Wyatt and Eadie’s idea prompted fierce backlash from members of Manitoba’s Indigenous community. Last week, the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs held a news conference condemning the name change as a “slap in the face.”
On Thursday, council heard from Kate Kehler from the Social Planning Council of Winnipeg, who said the whole situation speaks to a larger problem.
“The motion does represent an ongoing lack of understanding of the truly transformative change needed in thinking, if as a city we are ever going to make significant progress on Truth and Reconciliation, or if indeed we are ever going to get there at all,” she said.
Wyatt told council Thursday it was not his intent to take away from the renaming of Abinojii Mikanah.
Still, he maintains the road never should have been named Bishop Grandin in the first place – saying it was part of a long-planned Transcona corridor.
“It was unfortunate the timing, but had I been on council last term it wouldn’t have been named Bishop Grandin in the first place,” he said.
Some councillors suggested to Wyatt that there are other roads in his ward that could be renamed to honour Edward Schreyer.
However, Eadie fired back in response to the backlash.
“I’m on the street, I’m kind to everybody. If there is a woman in need and in trouble and she asks me, I help. As a matter of fact, I believe when I was a young teenager, I often got beat up because I was the white guy,” he told council.
He added, that while he understands why the delegations were upset, but he felt they assumed he didn’t think about these things before he supported the original motion to rename the road.
“Again, I do understand why especially the Indigenous, Métis activists who came, I understand their frustration, and I am going to forgive them for insinuating that somehow that I am a typical white guy when I’m not.”
While he said he would support the decision not to rename the road, he added he still felt it was a legitimate request.
Council voted unanimously to reject the motion – meaning the new section will remain named Abinojii Mikanah.
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