A group of Montrealers who want a subway station renamed in honour of the late jazz musician Oscar Peterson pleaded their case at a borough council meeting Tuesday night.
'People of every background can look up to Oscar Peterson. He was in his lifetime living proof that you don't need to be rich or powerful in order to be an influence and a great figure.' — Michael Citrome, Montreal law student
Peterson was born and raised in Montreal's southwest borough, where many people would like to see the Lionel-Groulx metro station named after him as an homage to the role he played within the city's black community.
Montreal resident Khoba Sysavane believes Peterson is a key role model for young people living in the area.
"We need to have a positive representation in Montreal, and especially in Saint-Henri and Little Burgundy, of a positive black figure [who] has marked the city, but has also contributed to the world of music internationally," she said at the borough meeting.
"We do not have any metro station named after any minority," said Raj Ramtuhal. "Now is the time to change that."
University of Montreal law student Michael Citrome spearheaded the campaign to rename Lionel-Groulx after Peterson through a Facebook group he created because he thinks the honour would be a positive gesture for the whole city.
"I can think of few tributes more fitting to a great man of the people than to be commemorated by something that's of great benefit to all citizens of the city," he said. "People of every background can look up to Oscar Peterson."
"He was in his lifetime living proof that you don't need to be rich or powerful in order to be an influence and a great figure, whereas Lionel Groulx was an oppressive figure, someone who discriminated and created divisions in society."
Groulx, a 20th century Quebec Roman Catholic priest and historian, is a controversial figure because of his well-documented anti-Semitism.
Borough Coun. Pierre Frechette said there is a municipal committee studying options to pay tribute to Peterson, including renaming the subway station, but there are many other proposals on the table.
"If it's not a metro station, it's going to be a park, a street or something," he said.
Peterson died on Dec. 23, 2007, of kidney failure. He was 82 years old.